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"These newly described ultra-small bacteria are an example of a subset of the microbial life on earth that we know almost nothing about," says Jill Banfield, a Senior Faculty Scientist in Berkeley Lab's Earth Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor in the departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
Source: Birgit Luef, Kyle R. Frischkorn, Kelly C. Wrighton, Hoi-Ying N. Holman, Giovanni Birarda, Brian C. Thomas, Andrea Singh, Kenneth H. Williams, Cristina E. Siegerist, Susannah G. Tringe, Kenneth H. Downing, Luis R. Comolli, Jillian F. Banfield. Diverse uncultivated ultra-small bacterial cells in groundwater. Nature Communications, 2015; 6: 6372 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7372
To concentrate these cells in a sample, they filtered groundwater collected at Rifle, Colorado through successively smaller filters, down to 0.2 microns, which is the size used to sterilize water. The resulting samples were anything but sterile. They were enriched with incredibly tiny microbes, which were flash frozen to -272 degrees Celsius in a first-of-its-kind portable version of a device called a cryo plunger. This ensured the microbes weren't damaged in their journey from the field to the lab.
This cryo-electron tomography image reveals the internal structure of an
ultra-small bacteria cell like never before. The cell has a very dense interior
compartment and a complex cell wall. The darker spots at each end of the cell
are most likely ribosomes. The image was obtained from a 3-D reconstruction.
The scale bar is 100 nanometers.
Credit: Berkeley Lab