Washington: A team of Spanish researchers, coordinated by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), has begun sequencing the genome of the global deep ocean.
They are using more than 2,000 samples of microorganisms collected in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans during the Malaspina Expedition. This collection of marine microbial genomic, the first in the world on a global scale, will provide new clues about a reservoir of biodiversity yet to explore, considering that it could imply the discovery of tens of millions of new genes in the coming years.
The works of sequencing (framed in the Malaspinomics project) focus on the viruses, bacteria and protists that inhabit the ocean to 4,000 meters deep.
Most of the biomass of marine organisms is composed of microorganism. Of these, a 72 percent inhabit the dark ocean, from 200 meters deep. However, so far, the DNA or RNA sequencing had been almost exclusively limited to the ocean surface waters.
Malaspinomics preliminary results reveal a wealth of unknown species of microorganisms in the deep ocean, characterized by an intense biological activity. Specifically, 60 percent of the bacterial species of the deep ocean detected by massive sequencing techniques are unknown.
Carlos Duarte, CSIC researcher and coordinator of Malaspina Expedition, asserted: "Malaspinomics means a leap forward because, for the first time, we are analyzing samples from the deep ocean, covering the great oceans. The new protocols of sequencing and analysis allow us to extract quite more information than in previous studies, which were limited to specific regions or surface waters, to an unprecedented level of resolution".
Researchers have already detected some bacteria, which are capable of degrading highly toxic compounds that have gradually gathered in the seabed.
Analysis are being conducted by a team that includes researchers from the Institute of Marine Sciences (CSIC), the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies -joint centre of CSIC and the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB)- and the National Genome Analysis Centre of Barcelona (CNAG).
They also count on the collaboration of MareNostrum -National Supercomputing Centre (BSC) in Barcelona-, the Joint Genome Institute (USA) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Germany).