Think about stealing other's genes to improve one's own. This is the case that happened with ten species of red algae that stole approximately 1 percent of their genes from bacteria to incorporate with theirs to fight salt stress and toxic chemicals in hot springs.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick researchers published their study in the journal eLife. The genes stolen by Cyanidiales, the red algal species, permit them to absorb and process carbons different sources in the environment to provide additional energy sources and supplement their photosynthetic lifestyle.
"The role of stolen genes in eukaryotes, which include most living things such as algae, has been hotly debated and many think it is unimportant and plays little to no role in their biology," said co-author Debashish Bhattacharya, a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. "Our robust genome data provide the first major evidence that this is a false narrative and that adaptation to a challenging environment can be directly facilitated by stolen genes."
With this development, scientists are curious in discovering the mechanism of gene theft. They plan to utilise these mechanism in developing genetic engineering methods in the lab to solve problems in humans. Algae can be designed to produce fuels or chemicals that can serve to clean polluted sites. Arsenic and Mercury are some toxic compounds and metals that Cyanidiales can process.
"In the new study, the scientists generated 10 novel Cyanidiales genomes in the genus Galdieriathat thrive in hot springs such as at Yellowstone National Park, despite high temperatures and highly acidic conditions. The goal was to determine whether these algae adapted to their extreme environment by stealing genes from resident, pre-adapted bacteria that made them resistant to the stresses. Genome analyses showed that about 1 percent of the red algal genes came from bacteria, " according to Eureka Alert.
NASA has recently awarded a Bhattacharya lab doctoral student, Julia Van Etten, to conduct studies with the Red algae in creating genetic tools and conduct more lab tests to determine if they turn on bacterial genes.