Scientists use an 'ice lolly' to find polar bacteria in their own back yard

Sep 28, 2006

To study the bacteria which survive in extreme cold, scientists no longer have to go to extreme environments, such as Antarctic lakes and glaciers. Bacteria previously isolated from polar climates, and have properties which allow them to survive in extreme cold, have been isolated from soil in temperate environments.

Professor Virginia Walker and her colleagues at Queen’s University, Canada, have developed a technique to isolate bacteria which have properties to interact with, and modify, ice. This technique involved the formation of an ‘ice finger’ (or lolly) to select for bacteria which will adsorb to ice. These bacteria were then cultured and identified using their DNA.

The bacteria can modify ice and water in a number of ways. One of the species identified, Chryseobacterium sp., demonstrated Ice Recrystallisation Inhibition (IRI), a property that can be exploited in the production of ice-cream to prevent it from recrystallising and becoming ‘crunchy’.

Other species isolated in this study promote the formation of ice crystals at temperatures close to melting, a property which is useful in the production of artificial snow.

Pseudomonas borealis is one species which is not only ice-forming, it is also thought to be tolerant to cold and could therefore have advantages for snow-making in artificial environments such as ski centres and in waste-water purification.

“Selecting for rare microbes that seem to stick to ice has been fun, but now the real work begins to find out what genes are responsible for this attraction” Said Professor Walker.

These findings will decrease the costs involved in the further study of such bacteria and their properties, as scientists will no longer need expeditions to the poles in order to isolate the bugs; they can find them in their own backyards.

Citation: Ice-active characteristics of soil bacteria selected by ice-affinity, by Sandra L. Wilson, Deborah L. Kelley and Virginia K. Walker. Published in Environmental Microbiology, Volume 8, Issue 10, pg. 1816 – 1824, October 2006

Source: Blackwell Publishing

Explore further: More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Methane-munching microorganisms meddle with metals

Nov 11, 2013

On the continental margins, where the seafloor drops hundreds of meters below the water's surface, low temperatures and high pressure lock methane inside ice crystals. Called methane hydrates, these crystals ...

A new formula for spray-drying milk

Oct 22, 2013

Spray-drying methods for milk based products such as baby formula or other powdered milks could be improved according to chemical engineers at the University of Sydney who have analysed current processes.

What lies beneath: NASA Antarctic sub goes subglacial

Mar 01, 2013

(Phys.org)—When researcher Alberto Behar from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., joined an international Antarctic expedition last month on a trek to investigate a subglacial lake, he ...

Research confirms Chinese origin of NZ's PSA outbreak

Feb 28, 2013

University of Otago scientists have today published persuasive evidence that the PSA strains responsible for the outbreak in North Island kiwifruit orchards came directly from China, as did those responsible ...

Recommended for you

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

1 hour ago

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...