Ancient bacteria show evidence of DNA repair

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  • Sarah Stewart Johnson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Københavns Universitet
  • ,
  • Martin B. Hebsgaard, Københavns Universitet
  • ,
  • Torben R. Christensen
  • Mikhail Mastepanov
  • Rasmus Nielsen, Centre for Ancient Genetics, Københavns Universitet
  • ,
  • Kasper Munch
  • Tina Brand, Københavns Universitet
  • ,
  • M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Centre for Ancient Genetics, Københavns Universitet
  • ,
  • Maria T. Zuber, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • ,
  • Michael Bunce, Murdoch University
  • ,
  • Regin Rønn, Københavns Universitet
  • ,
  • David Gilichinsky, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • ,
  • Duane Froese, University of Alberta
  • ,
  • Eske Willerslev, Københavns Universitet

Recent claims of cultivable ancient bacteria within sealed environments highlight our limited understanding of the mechanisms behind long-term cell survival. It remains unclear how dormancy, a favored explanation for extended cellular persistence, can cope with spontaneous genomic decay over geological timescales. There has been no direct evidence in ancient microbes for the most likely mechanism, active DNA repair, or for the metabolic activity necessary to sustain it. In this paper, we couple PCR and enzymatic treatment of DNA with direct respiration measurements to investigate long-term survival of bacteria sealed in frozen conditions for up to one million years. Our results show evidence of bacterial survival in samples up to half a million years in age, making this the oldest independently authenticated DNA to date obtained from viable cells. Additionally, we find strong evidence that this long-term survival is closely tied to cellular metabolic activity and DNA repair that over time proves to be superior to dormancy as a mechanism in sustaining bacteria viability.

TidsskriftProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Sider (fra-til)14401-14405
Antal sider5
StatusUdgivet - 2007
Eksternt udgivetJa

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