Arsenic Bug!

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Christopher K.
Posts: 4335
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Arsenic Bug!

Post by Christopher K. » December 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm

I can think of no better thread to break in this new section (thanks, Fred) than one that focuses on GFAJ-1, a strain of gammaproteobacteria that is constructed in part of arsenic. The microorganism was discovered in Mono Lake; the researchers purposefully chose such a location--it has a high salinity and a high alkalinity--since they are focusing on astrobiology. The arsenic in the bacteria replaces phosphorus. Phosphorus is one of the six building blocks of all known life on the Earth, along with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur.

Los Angeles diverted Mono Lake's tributary streams in the early 1940s, leading to its current harsh state.

More Information:
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/fea ... mical.html
http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/articles/t ... n-arsenic/

Arsenic:
http://periodic.lanl.gov/elements/33.html

Mono Lake:
http://www.monolake.org/about/story

Christopher K.
Posts: 4335
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Arsenic Bug!

Post by Christopher K. » December 31st, 2010, 3:26 pm

Apparently there has been a certain level of backlash concerning the GFAJ-1 bacteria which can supposedly replace phosphorus with arsenic in its body. However, Seth Shostak is of the opinion that people are railing against alleged flaws in the scientific method after learning that NASA's early teasers about a very important announcement had nothing to do with outright extraterrestrial life.

Seth Shostak piece from 5 December:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-shos ... 92226.html

Summary of the backlash from Discover's Ed Yong:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notro ... el-gazing/

Christopher K.
Posts: 4335
Joined: October 12th, 2009, 3:28 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: Arsenic Bug!

Post by Christopher K. » February 10th, 2011, 5:53 pm

A cursory glance on the internet didn't lead me to any more bantering about the worth of this study than what I already posted. I did find a page at the U.S. Geological Survey that went into the possible uses of arsenic by microbes, pointing out that some microorganisms can use arsenate and arsenite to sustain growth.

This page still states of the study, This is a real breakthrough as previously we have recognized six elements that sustain life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur) to which we now, in some cases, may add arsenic.

More information at:
http://microbiology.usgs.gov/geomicrobi ... nic_exterr

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