Email Print Share

"Trait-Off" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.

An international research team led by Oklahoma State University decoded the genetic information in Galdieria to understand how the one-celled alga acquired its flexibility and resilience.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Crossing over.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: hot bubbling sound) Searing hot springs, Yellowstone National Park, (Sound effect: volcanic tremors) noxious volcanic areas near Reykjavic, Iceland, (Sound effect: dripping mine shaft) dank mineshafts with drainage caustic as battery acid. Not the kind of places we humans like to hang out but there are life forms that have evolved to thrive in such extreme environments. Meet one of them: Galdieria sulphuraria. What's a nice one-celled alga like you doing in places like this? How have you developed such flexibility and resistance to live here?

A team from Oklahoma State and Heinrich-Heine University, Duselldorf have decoded genetic information in Galdieria and discovered the secret to its success: (Sound effect: doorbell) It's borrowed genes from surrounding bacteria making it the first-known organism with a nucleus to adapt to extreme environments by using "horizontal gene transfer," instead of just relying on genes inherited from its own ancestors. Galdieria's heat tolerance seems to stem from a gene copied from bacteria millions of years ago and passed down.

The discovery provides new insights on evolution and could lead to advances in biofuel production, if oil-producing algae can be genetically engineered to withstand extreme conditions--living on borrowed genes.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.