Earth and Environmental Sciences

Life in Extreme Environments
Tori M. Hoehler,, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center

During the last half century, the known range of inhabited environments has expanded dramatically, to include a spectrum of physical and chemical conditions previously regarded as incompatible with life. At the extreme fringes of this range, most inhabitants, though not all, are microorganisms. The relatively simplicity and diverse metabolic capabilities of microorganisms, combined with their potential for rapid evolution, may underlie their prevalence in such environments.

The current frontiers in “extremophile” research are both applied and environmental. Continuing advances in the capability for DNA sequencing are providing an increasingly resolved perspective on life in extreme environments, from basic assays of genetic identity to detailed characterization of metabolic potential and ecological interactions. The inhabitants of extreme environments also represent a unique repository of biomolecules that have evolved to function in conditions outside the “normal” biological range (for example, thermo-stable proteins) and potentially of coping strategies that are not well represented among typical laboratory organisms. As such, extremophiles are an important resource for industrial, biotechnology, and synthetic biology applications. This session will explore both the environmental and applied aspects of life in extreme environments.

Background Review Article:

Rothschild, Lynn J., and Rocco L. Mancinelli. "Life in Extreme Environments." Nature 409 (2001):1092–1101

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Earth and Environmental Sciences

Kavli Frontiers of Science PRO

This channel contains session presentations that cover earth science and environmental science topics from the Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium series of the National Academy of Sciences.

For additional symposium information, please visit our web


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This channel contains session presentations that cover earth science and environmental science topics from the Kavli Frontiers of Science symposium series of the National Academy of Sciences.

For additional symposium information, please visit our web site (nasonline.org/kfos).

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