A bacterium that can grow by using arsenic instead of phosphorus

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Jodi Switzer Blum, Thomas R. Kulp, Gwyneth Gordon, Shelley E. Hoeft, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, John F. Stolz, Samuel M. Webb, Peter K. Weber, Paul Davies, Ariel Anbar, Ronald S. Oremland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

324 Scopus citations

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1166
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume332
Issue number6034
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 3 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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