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A bacterium that can grow by using arsenic instead of phosphorus

January 1, 2011

Life is mostly composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorus. Although these six elements make up nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids and thus the bulk of living matter, it is theoretically possible that some other elements in the periodic table could serve the same functions. Here, we describe a bacterium, strain GFAJ-1 of the Halomonadaceae, isolated from Mono Lake, California, that is able to substitute arsenic for phosphorus to sustain its growth. Our data show evidence for arsenate in macromolecules that normally contain phosphate, most notably nucleic acids and proteins. Exchange of one of the major bio-elements may have profound evolutionary and geochemical importance.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title A bacterium that can grow by using arsenic instead of phosphorus
DOI 10.1126/science.1197258
Authors Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Jodi S. Blum, T.R. Kulp, Gordon W. Rattray, S.E. Hoeft, J. Pett-Ridge, J.F. Stolz, S.M. Webb, P.K. Weber, P.C.W. Davies, A.D. Anbar, R.S. Oremland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science
Index ID 70036548
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

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