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Never-before-seen microbes locked in glacier ice could spark a wave of new pandemics if released

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  • Never-before-seen microbes locked in glacier ice could spark a wave of new pandemics if released

    published 4 days ago

    By Harry Baker

    Stunned scientists have uncovered more than 900 never-before-seen species of microbes living inside glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau. Analysis of the microbes' genomes revealed that some have the potential to spawn new pandemics, if rapid melting caused by climate change releases them from their icy prisons.

    In a new study, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences took ice samples from 21 glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau — a high-altitude region in Asia wedged between the Himalayan mountain range to the south and the Taklamakan Desert to the north. The team then sequenced the DNA of the microscopic organisms locked inside the ice, creating a massive database of microbe genomes that they named the Tibetan Glacier Genome and Gene (TG2G) catalog. It is the first time that a microbial community hidden within a glacier has been genetically sequenced.

    The team found 968 microbial species frozen within the ice — mostly bacteria but also algae, archaea and fungi, the researchers reported June 27 in the journal Nature Biotechnology(opens in new tab). But perhaps more surprisingly, around 98% of those species were completely new to science. This level of microbial diversity was unexpected because of the challenges associated with living inside glaciers, the researchers said. "Despite extreme environmental conditions, such as low temperatures, high levels of solar radiation, periodic freeze-thaw cycles and nutrient limitation, the surfaces of glaciers support a diverse array of life," the study authors wrote. ...

  • #2
    A genome and gene catalog of glacier microbiomes

    Published: 27 June 2022

    Yongqin Liu, Mukan Ji, Tao Yu, Julian Zaugg, Alexandre M. Anesio, Zhihao Zhang, Songnian Hu, Philip Hugenholtz, Keshao Liu, Pengfei Liu, Yuying Chen, Yingfeng Luo & Tandong Yao


    Glaciers represent a unique inventory of microbial genetic diversity and a record of evolution. The Tibetan Plateau contains the largest area of low-latitude glaciers and is particularly vulnerable to global warming. By sequencing 85 metagenomes and 883 cultured isolates from 21 Tibetan glaciers covering snow, ice and cryoconite habitats, we present a specialized glacier microbial genome and gene catalog to archive glacial genomic and functional diversity. This comprehensive Tibetan Glacier Genome and Gene (TG2G) catalog includes 883 genomes and 2,358 metagenome-assembled genomes, which represent 968 candidate species spanning 30 phyla. The catalog also contains over 25 million non-redundant protein-encoding genes, the utility of which is demonstrated by the exploration of secondary metabolite biosynthetic potentials, virulence factor identification and global glacier metagenome comparison. The TG2G catalog is a valuable resource that enables enhanced understanding of the structure and functions of Tibetan glacial microbiomes.

    (NOTE: This link will automatically take you to the full article link below)