Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans
Brian Pink

Carboxydothermus hydrogenoformans is an extremely thermophilic spore forming, Gram-positive bacterium first isolated from a hot spring on the Russian volcanic island of Kunashir in 1991 by Svetlichny. Its complete genome was sequenced in 2005 by a team of scientists from The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR).What is most unusual about this microbe is its diet, almost entirely made up of carbon monoxide (CO). This organism consumes this normally poisonous gas with water (H2O), and produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen gas (H2). Not only is its energy source unusual, but its consumption of carbon monoxide is at a faster rate than that of all other organisms which share a similar metabolic process. This is due to it’s over abundance of five different types of carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, enzymes which aid in the degredation of carbon monoxide. While most other organisms that feed off carbon monoxide only contain one or two types of carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, this microbe can utilize its five different types each in a different way making it more efficient at carbon monoxide consumption, which also increases the rate at which this organism grows.

The significance of this microbe’s diet has only recently become of greater concern. As the world looks to hydrogen as a new possible energy source, cheap, efficient ways to produce hydrogen, in an economically manageable manner, are the subject of ever increasing scientific interest. In the future, this microbe could prove to be a valuable energy source. This microbe’s marketability isn’t just limited to the whole intact microbe itself. With its entire genomic sequence determined, the metabolic mechanism for its rapid production of hydrogen from carbon monoxide can be amplified and implanted into cheaper or better known organisms. No doubt this microbe will play a vital role in the future of a hydrogen based economy.

In addition to its value as an energy resource, the study of its genomic sequence revealed that it has a full set of spore forming genes, a recently unknown attribute of this microbe. Spore forming organisms have attracted great scientific interest lately, since the increased threat of bio-weapons utilizing spore forming microbes such as anthrax. The spore forming attribute of these types of organisms makes them ideal for bio-weapons, since the formation of spores allows the organism to resist extreme environmental fluctuations. Studies of spore forming microbes can give insight to the minimal genetic machinery required to form spores, and may yield insight into the bio-mechanisms of more dangerous microbes such as anthrax. With an increased biological understanding of such dangerous microbes, may come a method for preventing the damaging effects of certain types of bio-weapons.

Works Cited

*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.


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