December 3, 2012 – Prof. Dr. Nicole Dubilier from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and MARUM of the University of Bremen, Germany, received the prestigious Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative investigator award today. She is one of only 16 scientists selected through an open competition, and the only researcher from an institute outside of the USA. The award will provide 200,000 – 500,000 US dollars per year over five years to pursue pioneering research in the field of marine microbial ecology. The Marine Microbiology Initiative investigators were chosen through an extensive review process that considered over 180 applications. Awardees demonstrated creativity, innovation and potential to make major, new breakthroughs. “We’re providing some of the Louis Pasteurs of this field with additional, flexible funding—above and beyond that which they may already be receiving—to give them more freedom to pursue bold, new discoveries”, said Steve McCormick, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
For more information about the Initiative see here.
Click here to see the Max Planck Society press release.
In a study that we published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science we show that a small marine worm, faced with a scarce food supply in the sandy sediments it lives in off the coast of Elba, must deal with a highly poisonous menu: this worm lives on carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide.
The worm, Olavius algarvensis, can thrive on these poisons thanks to millions of symbiotic bacteria that live under its skin. They use the energy from carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide to produce food for the worm. Read more
Original article (open access)
Nature Research Highlight
From bits of science: "O. algarvensis and its symbionts can thrive in surroundings where other organisms would surely perish. In that it makes for a nice metaphore. Sometimes solid cooperation can turn even the most toxic situations into something productive."
The proposal of Nicole Dubilier, together with two PhD students from the Symbiosis Group, Manuel Kleiner and Cecilia Wentrup, to the 2011 Community Sequencing Program of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (USA) was approved! The goal of the project, titled ''Understanding novel pathways for energy and carbon use in bacterial symbionts of gutless marine worms" is to sequence the genomes of 20 different symbionts from gutless marine oligochaetes.
Nicole Dubilier was the Chief Scientist of a MARUM-funded cruise to the Menez Gwen hydrothermal vent field on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in 2010. A movie with highlights from the cruise was shown in the popular science magazine "W wie Wissen" of the nationwide TV channel 'Das Erste' on Sunday, October 23rd, 2011. Click here to watch.
Jillian Petersen, a Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Symbiosis Group, received the Wolf Vishniac Award for best presentation by a young investigator at the 20th International Symposium for Environmental Biogeochemistry in Istanbul, Turkey. Click here for more infomation about the conference, "Frontiers in Biogeochemistry".
Symbiosis Group researchers discover hydrogen-powered symbiotic bacteria in deep-sea hydrothermal vent mussels.
The search for new energy sources to power mankind’s increasing needs is currently a topic of immense interest. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are considered one of the most promising clean energy alternatives. While intensive research efforts have gone into developing ways to harness hydrogen energy to fuel our everyday lives, a natural example of a living hydrogen-powered ‘fuel cell’ has gone unnoticed. During a recent expedition to hydrothermal vents in the deep sea, researchers from the Symbiosis Group discovered mussels that have their own on-board ‘fuel cells’, in the form of symbiotic bacteria that use hydrogen as an energy source. Their results, which appear as the cover story in the August 11th issue of Nature, suggest that the ability to use hydrogen as a source of energy is widespread in hydrothermal vent symbioses.
News and Views article by Victoria Orphan and Tori Hoehler
This paper was reported in:
- Faculty of 1000
- Nature PodCast
- Microbe World BacterioFiles
- German evening news (ZDF Heute Journal, beginning at ~23 minutes)
- German science radio (DRadio Wissen - "Wasserstoff als Energiequelle")
- Numerous German and international newspapers (e.g. Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, SpiegelOnline, msnbc)
- Science blogs (e.g. Jonathan Eisen's The Tree of Life)
Nicole Dubilier was interviewed in Episode #8 of the podcast This Week in Microbiology live from the 2011 ASM General Meeting in New Orleans and describes her research on symbioses between chemosynthetic bacteria and marine invertebrates. Find the interview here.
We travelled on board the german research vessel FS METEOR to hydrothermal vents in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, close to the Azores Islands. There we conducted our research on the deep-sea underwater volcano Menez Gwen.
Read the blog written by Dr. Nicole Dubilier and watch videos by Dennis Fink on the news pages of the Hamburger Abendblatt. The english versions of the videos can be found here.
In July 2006, a film team led by the renowned underwater documentarist Sigurd Tesche made a striking discovery during a cruise with the French research vessel MINIBEX: around one of the peaks of Europe’s biggest underwater volcanoes, the Marsili Seamount north of Sicily, they discovered deep-sea tubeworms. Singly, in bunches, and in thickets of hundreds of tubeworms, with lengths of up to half a meter. With the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) SUPER ACHILLE they video surveyed some hundred square meters of the seamount at depths between 500 and 600 meters. The main tubeworm field was on a small terrace of about 15 by 30 m2 on the otherwise steep basalt cliffs. The terrace was covered with fine beige sediment, interspersed with fist size and smaller fragments of basalt. Diffuse fluid venting was visible with a greyish-blue to black centre and a white halo of filamentous bacteria, resembling mats of sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. As the cruise was focussed on filming, no samples were taken.
|Deep-sea tubeworms from the Marsili Seamount north of Sicily||White mats of filamentous bacteria cover the rocks behind the tubeworms|
The discovery of tubeworms at a hydrothermal vent in the Mediterranean is exciting because only vents in the Pacific Ocean are known to be colonized by tubeworms. In other oceans such as the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, mussels, shrimp, and snails dominate the vent communities, but so far, no tubeworms have been found at vents outside of the Pacific. In the Atlantic and Mediterranean, tubeworms are only known from cold seeps in the Caribbean, along the continental margins of America and Africa and in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. The Marsili tubeworms resemble the Lamellibrachia-like Vestimentifera, a group known almost exclusively from cold sulfide-rich deep-sea environments like gas seeps, mud volcanoes and continental margins. But on the flanks of an active volcano and in the Western Mediterranean where no tubeworms have yet been found?
|The ROV SUPER ACHILLE on back deck of the French RV MINIBEX|
In July 2009 Sigurd Tesche invited us to join his next filming cruise to the Strait of Messina and, weather permitting, to collect tubeworms at the Marsili seamount. After a rough ride on the MINIBEX from Marseille to the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea through strong winds of 8 Bft we were extremely lucky to find the sea above the Marsili Seamount completely calm and it took only 20 minutes to find the tubeworm site with the ROV. Over the next two days we collected numerous tubeworms as well as fluid samples for biogeochemical and microbial analyses. These samples are now being investigated in our labs. Miriam Weber from the Microsensor Group is comparing data from biogeochemical analyses of the water samples and in situ microsensor measurements with video surveys of the Marsili vent to better understand how the fluids support the microbial and animal communities. Judith Zimmermann from the Symbiosis Group is using molecular methods to characterize the tubeworms and their bacterial symbionts as well as the free-living bacteria from the water samples. And we are all placing bets on whom the tubeworms will be most closely related to: their cold seep relatives from the Mediterranean or their hot vent relatives from the Pacific.
|A good catch of tubeworms!|