A strain of bacteria isolated from a salt lake in California can grow on arsenic, seemingly in lieu of phosphorus in its DNA and other major biomolecules.
The finding, published today (December 2) on the Science Express Web site, throws into doubt the long-held belief that phosphorus is absolutely essential to life, and broadens the range of environments in which scientists might expect to find extraterrestrial organisms."This is a surprise," said biochemist linkurl:Barry Rosen;http://medicine.fiu.edu/faculty_departments.php?ss=office_aa⊂=research of Florida International University, who was not involved in the research. "Not just for bacteria but for life in general, arsenic is one of the few elements that is considered to be only toxic and has no role in metabolism."It's "pretty damn surprising," agreed ecologist linkurl:James Elser;http://sols.asu.edu/people/faculty/jelser.php of the Arizona State University, who also did not participate in the study. "I've spent my career studying phosphorus limitation,...
Image: Image © 2010 Henry Bortman
Image courtesy of Science/AAAS
Image: Image ? 2010 Henry Bortman
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