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Heat resistant: The P. fumarii genome is sequenced
Edward R. Winstead

Scientists have sequenced the genome of Pyrolobus fumarii, a microbe that tolerates extreme heat and requires no organic material to survive. The organism lives on a diet of inorganic chemicals, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, where temperatures exceed 110 degrees Celsius. The P. fumarii genome may contain useful information about life under such harsh conditions.


Two images of Pyrolobus fumarii, one of the cells as they are, stained with Uranyl acetate, and one of an ultrathin section. The bar in each micrograph corresponds to 1 µm.

Black smoker at a mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal vent in the Atlantic Ocean.

The genome was sequenced by a partnership between Diversa Corporation of San Diego and Celera Genomics of Rockville, Maryland. Diversa plans to use the genetic information to develop molecules that are stable at extremely high temperatures. These could be part of chemical, consumer and agricultural products, such as animal feed additives.

The P. fumarii genome has 1.8 million base pairs and about 2,000 genes. A preliminary survey of the sequence found a high number of genes that have no obvious similarity to known genes in other microorganisms. "The novelty of the organism's genes is expected to yield similarly unique gene products," Diversa said in a recent statement announcing the sequenced genome.

The name Pyrolobus fumarii means 'fire lobe of the chimney.' The organism was discovered in the wall of a 'black smoker,' a hydrothermal vent in the ridge that divides nearly the entire Atlantic Ocean north to south.

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Diversa completes of sequencing of Pyrolobus fumarii genome—the world's highest temperature organism. Press release, Diversa, San Diego, CA (September 25, 2001).
Blochl, E. et al. Pyrolobus fumarii, gen. and sp. nov., represents a novel group of archaea, extending the upper temperature limit for life to 113 degrees C. Extremophiles 1, 14-21 (February 1997).

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