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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Might stalked bacteria become bioremediation's workhorses? IU, Joint Genome Institute investigate

July 10, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute has accepted a proposal by an Indiana University Bloomington biologist to sequence the genomes of six bacteria known to suck up nutrients from their environments using long, rigid stalks.

Caulobacter crescentus

Photo by: Yves Brun

Stalked bacteria frequently affix themselves to solid objects with the aid of stalks and holdfasts. Pictured are two Caulobacter crescentus cells dividing into four

Print-Quality Photo

Project leader Yves Brun sees potential for bioremediation in the stalked bacteria, writing, "The particular advantage of this system is that these strains can be engineered to efficiently take up toxins present at low concentrations in water sources."

The present project, Brun says, stems from recent studies of Caulobacter crescentus that showed the bacterium's stalk improves its ability to take up molecules from its environment (see While Caulobacter crescentus is not one of the six bacteria Brun asked the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to sequence, knowledge gained from its study will be used to plan and interpret experiments with the other bacteria. The bacteria whose genome will be sequenced are Asticcacaulis biprosthecum, Asticcacaulis excentricus, Brevundimonas subvibrioides, Ancalomicrobium adetum, Hyphomicrobium denitrificans and Rhodomicrobium vannielii.

Once the genomes of these bacteria are sequenced, Brun and colleagues will look for genes and regulatory regions that control the biosynthesis and function of stalks, the biosynthesis and regulation of extracellular polysaccharide, and the extent of conservation of regulatory pathways for stalk and adhesin biosynthesis, always with an eye toward the interesting and potentially useful physiological properties of the organisms.

Based on proposals from scientists, the JGI chooses a handful of organisms each year for sequencing, covering the cost of the work and handling the logistics.

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