Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why archaea?

Why study archaea? The answer is of course - why not? After getting acquainted with these lovely critters how could one just walk away? Archaea has the best sales pitch in the world. Just listen to the buzzwords: "Astrobiology", "Origin of life", "Salt lakes", "The first Eukaryote", "Hot springs", "Underwater volcano", "Eukaryotic prototype", "The Third Domain". Everyone gets caught up in the enthusiasm sooner or later.

In the archaea we see ourselves The fundamental cellular machinery of archaea is remarkably similar to the eukaryotes with a large part of the components sharing direct homology. Interestingly the archaeal components are generally less complex than the eukaryotic counterparts. Because of this archaea is used as a model to understand eukaryotes. Another perk is that the thermostable proteins of some of the best studied archaea tend to be comparably easy to chrystalize, which means that the structure of some proteins in core information processes have only been determined from archaea.

In the archaea we see the past Every since the archaea was discovered to be a domain of their own, it has been speculated that they provide clues to how the first cells evolved. Do the extremophilic life style of archaea reflect an origin of life in hot springs? Do the methanogeneic pathways of archaea reflect a mode of metabolism on early earth? The archaea are also interesting for clues about how the first eukaryotes evolved.

In the archaea we see the future Archaea inhabit the most inhospitable environments on Earth, with a temperature record above the boiling point, tolerance of pH less than 0 and one of the highest salt tolerances in the world. Therefor they are used as models for life on other planets. What can we expect once we start exploring possibly inhabited worlds outside of our own. What are the environmental constraints of life, and what makes archaea different from other organisms in that they can live in the extreme environments.

In the archaea we see the present With the global warming becoming more and more apparent, the archaeal production of methane and fixation of carbon dioxide need to be understood. The archaea are essential for the large biogeochemical cycles of nutrients, and in many ways their roles are still not understood.

The archaea are cool just by themselves With so much diversity undiscovered, with so many unique traits, with so many modes of living simply never seen before, there are so many new discoveries waiting among the archaea.

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