Extreme Life Adaptation

Life in extreme environments – hot acids and heavy metals exposure are particularly nasty – can apparently make very similar organisms deal with stress in very different ways, according to new research from North Carolina State University. One single-celled organism from a hot spring near Mount Vesuvius in Italy fights uranium toxicity directly – by eating the heavy metal and acquiring energy from it. Another single-celled organism that lives on a smoldering heap near an abandoned uranium mine in Germany overcomes uranium toxicity indirectly – essentially shutting down its cellular processes to induce a type of cellular coma when toxic levels of uranium are too high in its environment. Interestingly, these very different responses to environmental stress come from two organisms that are 99.99 percent genetically identical.

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