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Some like it salty
Halobacterium genome sequenced
By Birgit Hofmann

An international team of scientists has sequenced the genome of Halobacterium species NRC-1, a microorganism that thrives in very salty environments. It is the first halophile, or salt-loving organism to be sequenced to date.

"These tiny creatures will provide many insights into how more complex creatures manage life functions, including cell division, and the way cells transport proteins across biological membranes," says microbial genetics professor Shiladitya DasSarma of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in a news release. "Right now, several biomedical applications using Halobacterium are being investigated, including the development of orally administered vaccines, and the design of new antibiotics," he adds.

Halobacteria are single-celled, rod-shaped microorganisms that are among the most ancient forms of life and appeared on earth billions of years ago. They are able to live under extreme conditions that would kill other creatures and can be found in salt lakes, the Dead Sea, and other saline habitats where the salt concentration comes close to saturation.

The research team collaborated with molecular biotechnologist Leroy Hood of the Institute of Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington, using a whole genome shotgun strategy to obtain the genetic data. They identified more than 2,600 likely genes, about a third of which are novel. The findings, together with the complete genetic map including a table of genes and genetic elements, are published in the current early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

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Ng, W.V. et al. Genome sequence of Halobacterium species NRC-1. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, Early Edition (October 3, 2000).

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