Biological Sciences seminar
Lauren Seyler, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
GLOBAL METABOLOMICS AS A MEANS OF LINKING MICROBIAL ACTVITIES AND THEIR BIOGEOCHEMICAL CONSEQUENCES IN SERPENTINIZING SYSTEMS
The first biochemical pathways likely evolved by mirroring geochemical reactions favored in hydrothermal environments, where hot circulating fluids chemically react with mafic and ultramafic rock. Of these reactions, serpentinization produces copious abiogenic organic compounds and has been speculated to play a central role in several origin of life scenarios. The ubiquity of water-rock reactions in our solar system raises the question of whether this could happen elsewhere- providing a mechanism for life on Mars, or icy worlds such as Europa and Enceladus. On modern Earth, these reactions provide energy and materials that may be harnessed by chemosynthetic microbial communities. Serpentinites are known to support microbial communities that feed off of the products of serpentinization, while adapted to harsh environmental conditions such as high pH and low DIC availability. However, the biochemistry of microbial populations that inhabit these environments are understudied and are complicated by overlapping biotic and abiotic processes.
Environmental metabolomics is an emerging approach used to study ecosystem properties. Through bioinformatic comparisons to metagenomic data sets, metabolomics can be used to study microbial adaptations and responses to varying environmental conditions. Since the techniques are highly parallel to organic geochemistry approaches, metabolomics can also provide insight into biogeochemical processes. These analyses are a reflection of metabolic potential and intersection with other organisms and environmental components. Here, we use an untargeted metabolomics approach to characterize both intracellular and aqueous metabolites from environmental biomass samples obtained from an actively serpentinizing habitat, in order to characterize the flow of metabolites and describe overlapping biogenic and abiogenic processes (including acetogenesis and methanotrophy) impacting carbon cycling in serpentinizing rocks. The aim of this study is to deconvolute the ongoing biotic and abiotic processes of these environments on Earth and to identify potential biomarkers to aid in the search for life in similar habitats on other worlds.
Tuesday, September 12 at 3:00 am to 4:00 am
Electrical Energy Resources Center (EERC), 218
1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931