Beyond Carbon-Based Life Forms – How Different Could E. T. Be?

“We describe a bacterium, strain GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae family, isolated from Mono Lake, California, which substitutes arsenic for phosphorus to sustain its growth. Our data show evidence for arsenate in macromolecules that normally contain phosphate, most notably nucleic acids and proteins. Exchange of one of the major bioelements may have profound evolutionary and geochemical significance.”

- Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Ph.D., Biochemist, USGS; NASA Astrobiology Institute

 

GFAJ-1 is a bacteria that can live without phosphorus, replacing it with arsenic. Photomicrograph source Science/AACS.
GFAJ-1 is a bacteria that can live without phosphorus, replacing it with arsenic. Photomicrograph source Science/AACS.
Researchers working in the harsh, arsenic-rich environment of Mono Lake, California, have discovered arsenic-eating bacteria called GFAJ-1 able to thrive and reproduce using arsenic, changing the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Mono Lake's large amount of toxic arsenic and very little phosphorus should kill Earth microorganisms, not make them thrive. But the GFAJ-1 bacteria grows and reproduces on an arsenic-rich diet and even has arsenic encoded in its DNA genome where phosphorus would normally be encoded. That means the GFAJ-1 organism in Mono Lake is radically different than other known Earth life.
Researchers working in the harsh, arsenic-rich environment of Mono Lake, California, have discovered arsenic-eating bacteria called GFAJ-1 able to thrive and reproduce using arsenic, changing the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth. Mono Lake's large amount of toxic arsenic and very little phosphorus should kill Earth microorganisms, not make them thrive. But the GFAJ-1 bacteria grows and reproduces on an arsenic-rich diet and even has arsenic encoded in its DNA genome where phosphorus would normally be encoded. That means the GFAJ-1 organism in Mono Lake is radically different than other known Earth life.

Updated  December 3, 2010  Washington, D. C.  - Today NASA held a much-awaited astrobiology press conference at its headquarters in Washington, D. C.  But instead of announcing that Mars has bacteria or watery moon Europa has marine life, the scientists reported finding an Earth-based bacteria called “GFAJ-1”  of the Halomonadaceae family in Mono Lake, California, that thrives on arsenic that would ordinarily poison and kill any multicellular life on this planet. In fact, arsenic is used to produce pesticides, herbicides and insecticides because it is so toxic. This is the first form of life known to be capable of growth in environments with little or no phosphorus.

Subscribe now to read this report.

Existing members, login below:


© 1998 - 2018 by Linda Moulton Howe.
All Rights Reserved.