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Role of Bacteria in Environment
#17
Microorganisms are integral part of our environment and without them the world will not survive. In the final stage of the food chain, microorganisms, including bacteria play the significant role as DECOMPOSERS. They are responsible for breaking down the energy rich organic compounds coming from decayed matter of both plants, animals (including leaves, dead plants and animal bodies or from animal wastes). In short degradation mediated by microorganisms and thus cleaning of environment is termed as bioremedation.

The biosphere is full of microbes and invariably their presence has a strong effect on its surroundings. Microorganisms impart both harmful and beneficial effects on their surrounding environment depending on the microorganisms concerned and also depends on our observation.
The role of microbes in the environment depends on their metabolic activities along with their relations with plants and animals and also on their use in biotechnological procedures and food production.

Role of microbes in nutrient and element cycles
Carbon ©, oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), sulfur (S), nitrogen (N), potassium (K), phosphorus (P), sodium (Na), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) are the elemental matters that constitute living system. Among them C, H, O, N, S, and P are the primary components of organic matter. C and H are always present in an organic compound and is represented by the empirical formula for glucose (CH2O). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is taken as an inorganic form of carbon.

Breakdown of complex organic materials to simple forms of carbon, so that other organisms can utilize them, is carried out through biodegradation or decomposition. Interestingly, every organic compounds with natural origin can be broken down into simpler forms of carbon (CO2) with the help of microorganisms and thus returned into the environment. In this scenario compound like plastics, Styrofoam, Teflon, insecticides and pesticides are not so easily broken down by microbes and hence are known as not biodegradable compounds.

Plants and animals can utilize ammonia (NH3), which is produced by conversion of N2 from the atmosphere with the help of microorganisms. This process, known as nitrogen fixation is essential for survival of plants and animals as plants cannot take up free nitrogen from the atmosphere. Nitrogen fixation is the only natural process of replenishing the spent nitrogen from the soil due to agricultural activities. Both free-living (in soil and aquatic environment) and symbiotic bacteria (association with plants) play a major role in nitrogen fixation.

Isolation and study of characteristics of microorganisms responsible for the key biochemical cycles in laboratory cultures are the traditional method for determining their importance in respective cycles. But with the advancement in molecular techniques, the presence of many microorganisms came into light, which could not be detected earlier with isolation technique.

Many hidden microbes with potential beneficial effect on the environment is now uncovered by metagenomic studies followed by laboratory isolation.
The bacterial role in the oxidation of the ammonia need to be reassessed with the invent of this current techniques as now the importance of the group archaea (which cannot be cultured easily in laboratory conditions) also came into light. Metagenomic analysis and [/align] will definitely help us evaluate the role of bacteria and other microbes in the environment in the near future.[align=justify]
#18
Bacteria can exist in very many environmental conditions and extremes. This resilience is due to the fact that they can evolve and mutate very easily by changing their DNA in relation to the surroundings.
#19
The term ‘extremophile’ applies to organisms that can survive in extreme environmental conditions such as in extremes of heat, cold or acidity. Most of the known extremophiles are microbes, including many bacteria. One recent exciting example of discovery of an extremophile bacteria is the identification of bacteria living in the cold and dark deep under the Antarctic ice, reported in the New York Times in 2013. These bacteria were found in water and sediment samples obtained by drilling down through a half-mile of ice into Lake Whillans. The presence of live bacteria was confirmed microscopically and by confirmation of presence of DNA and by measurement of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/science/living-bacteria-found-deep-under-antarctic-ice-scientists-say.html?_r=0)

Extremophile bacteria have proved useful in biotechnological applications. One famous example is the use of the heat-resistant enzyme Taq DNA polymerase in the process of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method first developed by Kary Mullis in 1983 that has transformed molecular biology and is used in processes from disease diagnosis to forensic science. A PCR reaction basically uses a single-stranded DNA template in the presence of a heat-stable DNA polymerase with an optimal catalytic activity at approximately 70[sup]0[/sup]C, nucleotides and DNA oligonucleotides (sequence-specific DNA primers). Most PCR methods use thermal cycling, which involves repeated cycles of heating and cooling in order to allow denaturing of the DNA template (approximately 95[sup]0[/sup]C), annealing of the primers (approximately 55[sup]0[/sup]C, depending on the primer sequences) and extension of the PCR product (approximately 72[sup]0[/sup]C), through a defined series of temperature steps. The most well-known of the heat resistant polymerases used is Taq DNA polymerase, derived from the extremophile Thermus aquaticus, a gram-negative bacterium that can tolerate high temperatures. It is a member of Deinococcus-Thermus group of thermophilic. T. aquaticus was first discovered in the Lower Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park but has since been found in other similar environments. Other naturally occurring heat-stable DNA polymerases that can be used include Pfu polymerase from Pyrococcus furiosus, which has a lower error rate than Taq polymerase and Vent polymerase (Tli polymerase) from Thermococcus litoralis, which has a half-life of approximately 7 h at 95[sup]0[/sup]C as opposed to approximately 1.6 h for Taq polymerase. All of these enzymes are derived from extremophile bacterial species that survive at extremes of heat in nature.
  

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