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Illuminating Microbial Dark Matter

Posted: July 16, 2013

Microbial dark matter is a term used to describe major lineages of microorganisms that have never been studied in the laboratory. It is pervasive and practically invisible, yet it can have profound influences on significant environmental processes. It contributes to plant growth and health, nutrient cycles in terrestrial and marine environments, the global carbon cycle, and climate processes.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and their collaborators, including UNLV microbiologists Brian Hedlund and Jeremy Dodsworth, are bringing microbial dark matter to light. They're filling in uncharted branches in the tree of life by conducting DNA sequencing of genomes isolated from single cells, and recent findings of the group’s exploration were published in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

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