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Vol. 70, No. 2, 2004; Pages: 647–655

Microbial Genomics and the Periodic Table

Lawrence P. Wackett,1,2* Anthony G. Dodge,2,3 and Lynda B. M. Ellis2,4

Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics, 140 Gortner Lab, 1479 Gortner
Ave., University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.


Extensive knowledge of microbial metabolism has been earned through more than a century of reductionist study. There is now basic understanding of how cultivated bacteria transduce the chemical energy of a growth substrate into the work and biosynthetic processes that underlie both survival and replication. This includes an appreciation that microorganisms can metabolize many chemical substances that exist only due to the efforts of synthetic chemists (34). These direct observations of microbial metabolism, and the molecular diversity inferred from microbial genome sequencing, point to the great breadth of microbial metabolism that exists in nature. In this age of genomics and the inherently new perceptions of metabolic networks thus engendered (101), it is worth pointing out the obvious: microbial cells are not made up of information; they are made up of atoms. The atoms in a microbial cell are determined only partly by genome-encoded transporters; they are also determined by the extracellular environment. For example, Deinococcus radiodurans accumulates more or less of the elements iron and manganese, depending on their relative concentrations in the extracellular environment. If the manganese concentration is above a threshold, D. radiodurans will oxidize its carbon source, glucose, via the glycolytic pathway (145). Below the threshold concentration, the pentose phosphate pathway is used.

Keywords:Deinococcus radiodurans,Borrelia burgdorferi,bacteria,nitrogen heterocyclic compounds,microbial genome,pentose phosphate,radionuclides.

Corresponding author: Tel (612) 625-3785; Fax (612) 625-5780

E-mail: wackett@biosci.cbs.umn.edu


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