Life Sciences Professor Brian Hedlund’s Research Published in Nature Communications Announces Discovery of a New Deep Lineage of Bacteria

Feb. 5, 2016

UNLV professor of life sciences Brian Hedlund recently co-authored “Global Metagenomic Survey Reveals a New Bacterial Candidate Phylum in Geothermal Springs” with several colleagues in the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute as well as other institutions of higher education. The article appears in Nature Communications, published by the prestigious Nature Publishing Group, and marks Hedlund’s fifth appearance in high-impact Nature journals since 2013.

The article announces the discovery of “Kryptonia,” a novel bacterial phylum living exclusively in hot springs. Kryptonia was uncovered through the combined analysis of single-cell genomes and metagenomes using cells and DNA recovered from Great Boiling Spring in Nevada, Dewar Creek Spring in Canada, and the Gongxiaoshe and Jinze pools in China. This research provides the first insights into the biology of this deep-branching lineage of bacteria, which likely diverged from other major lineages over a billion years ago. The research also revealed the presence of a phage defense system within Kryptonia, a type of immunity to foreign bodies that can be used to trace infection history as well as the specific foreign bodies that caused it. Noting Kryptonia’s ability to digest plant matter, Hedlund suggested further research may be done to discover commercial applications of enzymes encoded by Kryptonia genomes.  

Hedlund’s research focuses mostly on life in high-temperature habitats and provides unique insights into the foundations of life in geothermal systems, the functions of major new microbial lineages, and the diversity of life on Earth. Read more about his most recent discoveries here.

Hedlund is currently an academic fellow in the Division of Research and Economic Development.