Abstract: Sixteen epilithic lichen samples (13 species), collected from seven locations in Northern and Southern Victoria Land in Antarctica, were investigated for the presence of black fungi. Thirteen fungal strains isolated were studied by both morphological and molecular methods. Nuclear ribosomal 18S gene sequences were used together with the most similar published and unpublished sequences of fungi from other sources, to reconstruct an ML tree. Most of the studied fungi could be grouped together with described or still unnamed rock-inhabiting species in lichen dominated Antarctic cryptoendolithic communities. At the edge of life, epilithic lichens withdraw inside the airspaces of rocks to find conditions still compatible with life; this study provides evidence, for the first time, that the same microbes associated to epilithic thalli also have the same fate and chose endolithic life. These results support the concept of lichens being complex symbiotic systems, which offer attractive and sheltered habitats for other microbes.
Abstract: The bulk of Earth’s biosphere is cold (<5 °C) and inhabited by psychrophiles. Biocatalysts from psychrophilic organisms (psychrozymes) have attracted attention because of their application in the ongoing efforts to decrease energy consumption. Proteinases as a class represent the largest category of industrial enzymes. There has been an emphasis on employing cold-active proteases in detergents because this allows laundry operations at ambient temperatures. Proteases have been used in environmental bioremediation, food industry and molecular biology. In view of the present limited understanding and availability of cold-active proteases with diverse characteristics, it is essential to explore Earth’s surface more in search of an ideal cold-active protease. The understanding of molecular and mechanistic details of these proteases will open up new avenues to tailor proteases with the desired properties. A detailed account of the developments in the production and applications of cold-active proteases is presented in this review.
Abstract: Using an 18-year dataset of arrival dates of 65 species of Maine migratory breeding birds, I take a deeper view of the data to ask questions about the shapes of the distribution. For each year, most species show a consistent right-skewed pattern of distribution, suggesting that selection is stronger against individuals that arrive too early compared to those that arrive later. Distributions are consistently leptokurtic, indicating a narrow window of optimal arrival dates. Species that arrive earlier in the spring show higher skewness and kurtosis values. Nectarivorous species showed more pronounced skewness. Wintering area did not explain patterns of skewness or kurtosis. Deviations from average temperatures and the North Atlantic Oscillation index explained little variation in skewness and kurtosis. When arrival date distributions are broken down into different medians (e.g., 5% median and 75% median), stronger correlations emerge for portions of the distribution that are adjacent, suggesting species fine-tune the progress of their migration. Interspecific correlations for birds arriving around the same time are stronger for earliest migrants (the 25% median) compared to the true median and the 75% median.
Abstract: Polar and other low temperature environments are characterized by a low content in energy and this factor has a strong incidence on living organisms which populate these rather common habitats. Indeed, low temperatures have a negative effect on ectothermic populations since they can affect their growth, reaction rates of biochemical reactions, membrane permeability, diffusion rates, action potentials, protein folding, nucleic acids dynamics and other temperature-dependent biochemical processes. Since the discovery that these ecosystems, contrary to what was initially expected, sustain a rather high density and broad diversity of living organisms, increasing efforts have been dedicated to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in their successful adaptation to apparently unfavorable physical conditions. The first question that comes to mind is: How do these organisms compensate for the exponential decrease of reaction rate when temperature is lowered? As most of the chemical reactions that occur in living organisms are catalyzed by enzymes, the kinetic and thermodynamic properties of cold-adapted enzymes have been investigated. Presently, many crystallographic structures of these enzymes have been elucidated and allowed for a rather clear view of their adaptation to cold. They are characterized by a high specific activity at low and moderate temperatures and a rather low thermal stability, which induces a high flexibility that prevents the freezing effect of low temperatures on structure dynamics. These enzymes also display a low activation enthalpy that renders them less dependent on temperature fluctuations. This is accompanied by a larger negative value of the activation entropy, thus giving evidence of a more disordered ground state. Appropriate folding kinetics is apparently secured through a large expression of trigger factors and peptidyl–prolyl cis/trans-isomerases.
Abstract: Streptococcus suis is an important swine pathogen associated with a variety of infections such as meningitis, arthritis and septicemia. The bacterium is zoonotic and has been found to cause meningitis especially in humans occupationally exposed to infected pigs. Since adhesion is a prerequisite for colonization and subsequent infection, anti-adhesion treatment seems a natural alternative to traditional treatment with antibiotics. In order to optimize the inhibitory potency a multivalency approach was taken in the inhibitor design. A synthetic tetravalent galabiose compound was chosen which had previously shown promising anti-adhesion effects with S. suis in vitro. The aim of this study was to evaluate the in vivo effects of the compound using an infection peritonitis mouse model. As such S. suis serotype 2 infection and treatment were tested in vivo and the effects were compared to the effect of treatment with penicillin.
Abstract: Cyanobacteria and lichens living under sandstone surfaces in the McMurdo Dry Valleys require snow for moisture. Snow accumulated beyond a thin layer, however, is counterproductive, interfering with rock insolation, snow melting, and photosynthetic access to light. With this in mind, the facts that rock slope and direction control colonization, and that climate change results in regional extinctions, can be explained. Vertical cliffs, which lack snow cover and are perpetually dry, are devoid of organisms. Boulder tops and edges can trap snow, but gravity and wind prevent excessive buildup. There, the organisms flourish. In places where snow-thinning cannot occur and snow drifts collect, rocks may contain living or dead communities. In light of these observations, the possibility of finding extraterrestrial endolithic communities on Mars cannot be eliminated.