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Recent interests in understanding the capabilities of how microorganisms survive in the many inhospitable, "extreme" niches in which they're found has precipitated a discipline unto itself — Astrobiology — and a funding source at the Federal level. This has facilitated exploration of the frontiers of science aimed at understanding the requirements and limits for life, and the many ways and places that it occurs. The GenEx2 project described in this website is funded by NSF's Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) program.

In order to really understand how microorganisms tolerate their chemical / physical / biological environments (one aspect of the study of microbial ecology), and respond to environmental change, technologies are needed to better sample organisms, and the biomolecules they produce.

The goal of this project is to develop genomics approaches for studying microorganisms sampled directly from extreme environments.

The Antarctic marine psychrophiles are the extreme organisms of choice for this study. Scientists are just beginning to learn about their biological diversity, and we know little about their various functions in the ocean, or about the specific metabolic adaptations required by these organisms for life at the subzero temperatures (0 to -1.8°C) sustained in the Antarctic marine environment.

This research aims to reveal new DNA sequences that encode psychrophilic gene products which contain vital clues for understanding specific psychrophilic adaptations of Antarctic bacterioplankton.

The application of DNA microarray technology to studies of life in extreme environments offers an outstanding opportunity to identify new genes for biotechnological use, and to discover specific adaptations for survival in extreme environments by detecting genes that are uniquely expressed in the natural environment.

Through the use of an existing microbial genomic DNA library generated from picoplankton DNA collected in the Antarctic, we are exploring the potential utility of DNA microarray technology (GeneChips) to help us gain a better understanding of how microbial organisms survive in the various types of harsh environments that they call home.

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