This article was produced and financed by University of Bergen

Animals found around underworld volcanoes have evolved to live in extreme conditions. These properties may be put to industrial use, researchers say. (Photo: Centre for Geobiology)

Researchers to trawl ocean for new biotechnology resources

Biodiversity hot spots in the ocean are an un-tapped resource for safer, cheaper and greener products.

University of Bergen

The University of Bergen is located in Bergen, Norway. Six faculties cover most of the traditional university disciplines. Within the faculties are included 60 different specialised departments, centres and institutes.

We frequently hear that global resources are being used up. The one that still remains untapped is also the largest: the range of microbiological resources in our oceans.

These could be providing us with new resources from which to produce safer, cheaper and greener products.

Microbes that survive in extreme conditions are of special interest. They can often tolerate extreme pressure, salinity or temperature, and could provide enzymes that are able to perform in industrial settings under harsh physical and chemical conditions.

Researchers will mine for and use newly discovered microbial enzymes and metabolites, in particular for the targeted production of fine chemicals, environmental clean-up technologies and anti-cancer drugs.

  • Short for “Industrial Applications of Marine Enzymes”
  • A four year project, with a six million euro funding from the EU Horizon 2020 Program
  • Comprised of 23 partners from academia and industry, from 12 countries
  • Centre for Geobiology and Uni Research Centre for Applied Biolotechnology are among the partners
  • The goal: To discover and use the functional protein diversity from the sea, using innovative screening and expression platforms
  • Led by Professor Peter Golyshin and Dr. Olga Golyshina from Bangor University

Discovering new Norwegian nature

For the past twelve years, researchers and students from the Centre for Geobiology at the University of Bergen have explored the volcanic underwater world of the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge (AMOR). Through their summer expeditions to the area, they have discovered new Norwegian nature every year.

In this period they have surveyed hundreds of undersea volcanoes and a number of hydrothermal vents. Loki’s Castle (Lokeslottet), Soria Moria and Trollveggen are among the names given to the hydrothermal vents discovered by the UiB researchers in 2005 and 2008.

Loki’s Castle and other areas like it will likely represent vast resources for bioprospecting.

“In this project we will have the possibility to apply our knowledge in state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies to analyse the biodiversity and metabolic functions in AMOR ecosystems in order to discover new industrial enzymes deriving from these extreme habitats”, says Ida Helene Steen from the Centre for Geobiology.

Impossible to culture

The majority of microbes from extreme environments cannot be cultured under standard lab conditions.

“After 4 billion years of evolution, nature has established a vast diversity of enzymes, some of which may fit perfectly well to the industrial demand," says professor Peter Golyshin of Bangor University, the leader of the project.

Our task will be to identify them using corresponding screening conditions, at the very early stages.”

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