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from Discover Blog "Not Exactly Rocket Science":
Nor do the bacteria belong to a second branch of life on Earth – the so-called “shadow biosphere” that Wolfe-Simon talked about a year ago. When she studied the genes of these arsenic-lovers, she found that they belong to a group called the Oceanospirillales. They are no stranger to difficult diets. Bacteria from the same order are munching away at the oil that was spilled into the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. The arsenic-based bacteria aren’t a parallel branch of life; they’re very much part of the same tree that the rest of us belong too.
That doesn’t, however, make them any less extraordinary.
from Nature News:
Still, the discovery is "just phenomenal" if it holds up after further chemical analysis, Benner adds. "It means that many, many things are wrong in terms of how we view molecules in the biological system."
In addition to questioning the long-held assumption that phosphate is absolutely required for life, the existence of the bacterium "provides an opportunity to really pick apart the function of phosphorous in different biological systems", notes Valentine. There may even be a way to use the arsenic-loving microbes to combat arsenic contamination in the environment, he adds.
Interestingly, one panel member in today's announcement did think it's on the same tree of life, or at least is not yet convinced it's not on the same tree of life, but is open to running further experiments to prove or disprove that idea.
Originally posted by americandingbat
fro m Discover Blog "Not Exactly Rocket Science":
The arsenic-based bacteria aren’t a parallel branch of life; they’re very much part of the same tree that the rest of us belong too.
It's alien to known DNA because known DNA uses Phosphorus in the "spine" of the DNA, and the microbes CAN use arsenic in place of phosphorus. So the arsenic replacement allegedly makes it "alien" in one sense of that word.
Originally posted by Esger
"NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today"
How can they say that, exactly? They know how alien DNA looks like? If so, how?
It started in low phosphorus but continued to grow in no phosphorous, which is what raises the question about whether it's life as we know it, life wasn't thought capable of doing that.
Originally posted by rhinoceros
It's a gammaproteobacteria that has adopted to life at very low phosphorus concentration.
In the laboratory, the researchers successfully grew microbes from the lake on a diet that was very lean on phosphorus, but included generous helpings of arsenic. When researchers removed the phosphorus and replaced it with arsenic the microbes continued to grow.
The researchers began to grow the bacteria in a laboratory on a diet of increasing levels of arsenic, finding to their surprise that the microbes eventually fully took up the element, even incorporating it into the phosphate groups that cling to the bacteria's DNA...
That probably means that the bacteria, while a striking first for science, are not a sign of a "second genesis" of life on Earth, adapted specifically to work best with arsenic in place of phosphorus. BBC News
I haven't seen that specifically answered but researchers did say they preferred phosphate (grew better when phosphate was present) so if there are low levels of phosphate in the lake, they probably had phosphate in their DNA when they were scooped out of the lake.
Originally posted by Astyanax
Did the bacteria already use some arsenic in their DNA when they were scooped out of the lake, or were they persuaded to take it up later, in the lab?