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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Scientists get $.5 million from NSF to sequence colorful bacterium

Sept. 27, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington and Baylor College of Medicine scientists have received a two-year, $557,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to sequence the genome of a bacterium that changes colors under different light and nutrient conditions.

Fremyella diplosiphon

Photo by: David Kehoe, Rick Alvey, and Roger Hangarter

When light conditions change, the bacterium Fremyella diplosiphon can shift its pigment production to capture more light energy. Here, "blind" mutants (red) grow amid sea of normal colonies (green)

Print-Quality Photo

Fremyella diplosiphon is one of the cyanobacteria, a diverse and populous division of microorganisms once referred to as "blue-green algae." Its genome is approximately 12 million base pairs long. The human genome, by contrast, is about 3 billion base pairs long. F. diplosiphon is expected to have more than 10,000 genes, making it one of the most complex bacteria described to date. Humans are predicted to have anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 genes.

Geneticists George Weinstock of the Baylor College of Medicine and David Kehoe of IU Bloomington are interested in F. displosiphon's capacity for sensing different frequencies of light and altering its gene expression patterns in adjustment to those conditions. Fundamental questions remain as to how organisms -- including humans -- sense light and react to it, and F. displosiphon provides scientists with a simple model for their studies.

As part of the grant project, Kehoe will visit local (Bloomington) high school classes to teach students the basics of genome structure -- using F. displosiphon as a model, of course.

To speak with Kehoe, please contact David Bricker, IU Media Relations, at 812-856-9035 or

"Complete Genome Sequencing of the Chromatically Adapting Cyanobacterium Fremyella diplosiphon," NSF award no. EF 0626927