Antarctic DNA moving forward: genomic plasticity and biotechnological potential

Authors

  • Cecilia Martínez-Rosales,

    1. Sección Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
    2. Unidad de Microbiología Molecular, Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Montevideo, Uruguay
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  • Natalia Fullana,

    1. Sección Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
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  • Héctor Musto,

    1. Laboratorio de Organización y Evolución del Genoma, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
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  • Susana Castro-Sowinski

    Corresponding author
    1. Unidad de Microbiología Molecular, Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Montevideo, Uruguay
    • Sección Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
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Correspondence: Susana Castro-Sowinski, Sección Bioquímica, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Igua 4225, 11400, Montevideo, Uruguay. Tel.: +598 2525 2095; fax: +598 2525 8617; e-mails: s.castro.sow@gmail.com; scs@iibce.edu.uy

Abstract

Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, where only cold-adapted organisms survive. It has been frequently cited as a pristine place, but it has a highly diverse microbial community that is continually seeded by nonindigenous microorganisms. In addition to the intromission of ‘alien’ microorganisms, global warming strongly affects microbial Antarctic communities, changing the genes (qualitatively and quantitatively) potentially available for horizontal gene transfer. Several mobile genetic elements have been described in Antarctic bacteria (including plasmids, transposons, integrons, and genomic islands), and the data support that they are actively involved in bacterial evolution in the Antarctic environment. In addition, this environment is a genomic source for the identification of novel molecules, and many investigators have used culture-dependent and culture-independent approaches to identify cold-adapted proteins. Some of them are described in this review. We also describe studies for the design of new recombinant technologies for the production of ‘difficult’ proteins.

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