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Research on life at high temperatures in Yellowstone (Image 3)

The River Group in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park

The River Group in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park. Research on hot springs like this one is providing biochemical tools for biomedical tests and industries like biofuels, and is shedding light on fundamental questions in biology relating to the microbial cells and viruses--the intercellular parasites that infect them.

This research has shown that viruses can be beneficial or harmful to host microbes. On the one hand, researchers can see evidence of a genetic race between the hosts and the viruses that occurs naturally within these environments, with the host evolving genetic systems to prevent infection and viruses evolving to evade these defenses. In contrast, evidence of sharing of genetic material between microbial cells and viruses suggests a benefit to the host and the virus. Because these springs are isolated islands in the cooler environment around them, it is possible to more completely describe the biological communities in the hot springs and their interrelationships compared to the cooler environments.

This research was initiated through NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I and II awards (DMI-0109756, DMI-0215988) to Lucigen (Principle Investigator Thomas Schoenfeld). Ongoing work on the project is currently supported by an additional grant (IIP 08-39404), awarded to Lucigen (Schoenfeld). (Date of Image: 2005-2007) [Image 3 of 6 related images. See Image 4.]

Credit: David Mead, Lucigen Corporation
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