Genomics and Cell Biology

Using Metagenomics To Better Understand Hydrothermal Communities

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
NASA Astrobiology Institute
October 31, 2019
Filed under
Using Metagenomics To Better Understand Hydrothermal Communities
Shimmering hot waters of a hydrothermal vent at the Von Damm vent field, Carribean Sea, Mid-Cayman RIse. Numerous shrimp are seen in the image. IMAGE CREDIT: NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER PROGRAM, MID-CAYMAN RISE EXPEDITION 2011.

Researchers supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Program have used genome-resolved metagenotics and metatranscriptomics to better understand microbial communities in the subseafloor near hydrothermal vents.

These techniques provide details about gene abundance and expression, and allow scientists to assess how microbial communities inhabit different niches in these environments. The new study focuses on microbial communities found near vent sites at the Mid-Cayman Rise.

Microbes associated with hydrothermal systems could provide important clues about how life as we know it might be able to survive in similar environments in oceans beyond our plant. Studying these communities on Earth could help guide the development of future missions to locations with subsurface oceans, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The study, “Genome‐resolved metagenomics and metatranscriptomics reveal niche differentiation in functionally redundant microbial communities at deep‐sea hydrothermal vents,” was published in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The work was supported by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program and the Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR) Program. NASA Astrobiology provides resources for this and other Research and Analysis programs within the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) that solicit proposals relevant to astrobiology research. This newly-revealed science is also a critical part of NASA’s work to understand the Universe, advance human exploration, and inspire the next generation. As NASA’s Artemis program moves forward with human exploration of the Moon, the search for life on other worlds remains a top priority for the agency.

Microbial Niches around Hydrothermal Vents

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