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2014 News in Brief



Ahoy! Ocean vesicles spotted

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Scientists in Sallie (Penny) Chisholm's lab documented the first extracellular vesicles produced by ocean microbes. The arrow points to one of these spherical vesicles in this scanning electron micrograph of the cyanobacteria, Prochlorococcus. Image / Steven Biller, Chisholm LabMarine cyanobacteria — tiny ocean plants that produce oxygen and make organic carbon using sunlight and CO2 — are primary engines of Earth’s biogeochemical and nutrient cycles. They nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and with their own body mass, which forms the base of the ocean food chain. Now postdoc Steven Biller and Professor Sallie (Penny) Chisholm have discovered another dimension of the outsized role played by these tiny cells: The cyanobacteria continually produce and release vesicles, spherical packages containing carbon and other nutrients that can serve as food parcels for marine organisms. The vesicles also contain DNA, and they may even act as decoys to deflect viruses. Read a news story.