A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus

@article{WolfeSimon2011ABT,
  title={A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus},
  author={Felisa Wolfe-Simon and Jodi Switzer Blum and Thomas R. Kulp and Gwyneth W. Gordon and Shelley E. Hoeft and Jennifer Pett‐Ridge and John F. Stolz and Samuel M. Webb and Peter K. Weber and Paul Davies and Ariel D. Anbar and Ronald S. Oremland},
  journal={Science},
  year={2011},
  volume={332},
  pages={1163 - 1166}
}
Evidence is offered for arsenate replacing phosphate as a molecular building block in a Mono Lake, California, bacterium. 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… 
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GFAJ-1 Is an Arsenate-Resistant, Phosphate-Dependent Organism
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It is shown that GFAJ-1 is able to grow at low phosphate concentrations, even in the presence of high concentrations of arsenate, but lacks the ability to grow in phosphorus-depleted medium, while efficiently scavenging phosphate.
Absence of Detectable Arsenate in DNA from Arsenate-Grown GFAJ-1 Cells
TLDR
GFAJ-1 shows no particular facility to substitute arsenic for phosphate, when phosphate is limiting, but it can tolerate high concentrations of the poison while efficiently scavenging phosphate.
Comment on “A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus”
TLDR
An apparent stimulatory effect of arsenic on the growth of bacteria isolated from Mono Lake, California, was interpreted as evidence that the cells can grow by using arsenic instead of phosphorus, and may have stimulated the bacterium’s high-affinity phosphorus assimilation pathway, which is active when phosphate levels are low.
Arsenate replacing phosphate: alternative life chemistries and ion promiscuity.
TLDR
The issue of how and to what degree proteins can distinguish between arsenate and phosphate and what is known in general about oxyanion specificity is addressed and how phosphate-arsenate promiscuity may affect evolutionary transitions between phosphate- and arsenate-based biochemistry is discussed.
From Phosphorous to Arsenic: Changing the Classic Paradigm for the Structure of Biomolecules
TLDR
Mounting evidence supports the claim that these bacteria substitute arsenic for phosphorus in macromolecules, and fuel the debate related to what may be a most unusual organism.
Growth of a Bacterium That Apparently Uses Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus Is a Consequence of Massive Ribosome Breakdown*♦
TLDR
It is found that arsenate induces massive ribosome degradation, which provides a source of phosphate, and this results provide a simple explanation for the reported growth of GFAJ-1 in arsenate without invoking replacement of phosphorus by arsenic in biological macromolecules.
Comment on “A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus”
TLDR
Although their data show that GFAJ-1 is an extraordinary extremophile, consideration of arsenate redox chemistry undermines the suggestion that arsenate can replace the physiologic functions of phosphate.
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