Bacterial vesicles may offer genetic exchange opportunities, affect carbon cycle
S. Biller/Chisholm Lab
Superabundant bacteria in the ocean routinely sacrifice parts of themselves, scientists have discovered. This sacrifice, in which bacteria pinch off minuscule spheres called vesicles, may influence climate change by affecting how much carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb.
Photosynthetic bacteria in the genus Prochlorococcus shed two to five vesicles a day, researchers led by biological oceanographer Sallie Chisholm of MIT report in the Jan. 10 Science. Each vesicle is a membrane-wrapped bubble with about one-sixth the diameter of the bacteria and is packed with lipids, proteins, RNA and even DNA. Together, the hordes of bacteria may cast off 10,000 to 100,000 metric tons of organic carbon into the ocean each day in these parcels, Chisholm’s team calculates.
Prochlorococcus, which Chisholm and her colleagues first described in 1988, is the world’s most abundant