Living dangerously, in more ways than one
Evolutionary biologists are intrigued by Methanopyrus kandleri, a single-celled organism that thrives near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor where water temperatures can reach 752 degrees Fahrenheit (see photo). Thanks to new work in the laboratory of Dieter Söll, Ph.D., Sterling Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, M. kandleri may soon be a darling of virologists.
In the May 1 edition of Science a Yale team reports that M. kandleri carries a mutation that swaps cytosine (C) for uracil (U) in 30 crucial genes. The mutation would probably be fatal, but the researchers found that M. kandleri also has an enzyme that corrects the mutation.
The enzyme is a member of a family that interests HIV researchers because of its antiviral activity, and “may be of biotechnological interest if we can engineer it to mutate C to U at any desired location within an RNA molecule,” says Lennart Randau, Ph.D., postdoctoral associate in the Söll lab and a lead author of the paper.