Costantino Vetriani was featured in an article authored by science writer Jennifer Barone entitled: “In Search of Life’s Smoking Gun” and published in Nautilus on September 18, 2014. This article discusses the possibility that life might have originated at hydrothermal vents and includes an account of a recent oceanographic expedition in which Costa participated. The article is available at: http://nautil.us/issue/17/big-bangs/in-search-of-lifes-smoking-gun
Research at the Deep-Sea Microbiology Lab
Research in my laboratory is focused on the physiology, ecology and evolution of prokaryotes that inhabit geothermal environments. The overarching objective of my research revolves on the question: “how did microbial metabolism co-evolve along with our planet?” Extant thermophilic, anaerobic, chemolithoautotrophic Bacteria and Archaea that conserve energy and fix carbon using inorganic compounds associated with volcanic activity (e.g., H2, H2S, S0 and CO2) are completely disconnected from photosynthetic processes. While these deep-branching anaerobic thermophiles are modern organisms that co-evolved with our planet, they inhabit deep-sea hydrothermal vents and other geothermal habitats that can be considered relic environments similar to the early Earth. Hence, these microorganisms carry both ancestral and more recently acquired traits (genes and enzymes) and can be used as models to reconstruct early metabolism. To this end, in my laboratory we devote a considerable effort to “domesticate” some of the most fascinating organisms on our planet, and to use them as models to understand the evolution of early metabolism and the adaptations to environments that resemble the early Earth.
Patwardhan, S. and Vetriani, C. (2016). Varunaivibrio sulfuroxidans gen. nov., sp. nov., a facultatively chemolithoautotrophic, mesophilic alphaproteobacterium from a shallow-water gas vent at Tor Caldara, Tyrrhenian Sea. Intl. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 66:3579-3584. doi:10.1099/ijsem.0.001235.
Giovannelli, D., Chung, M., Staley, J., Starovoytov, V., Le Bris, N. and Vetriani, C. (2016). Sulfurovum riftiae sp. nov., a mesophilic, thiosulfate-oxidizing, nitrate-reducing chemolithoautotrophic Epsilonproteobacterium isolated from the tube of the deep-sea hydrothermal vent polychaete, Riftia pachyptila. Intl. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 66:2697-2701. doi: 10.1099/ijsem.0.001106.
Houghton, J.L., Foustoukos, D., Flynn T., Vetriani, C., Brandley, A., Fike, D. (2016). Thiosulfate oxidation by Thiomicrospira thermophila: metabolic flexibility in response to ambient geochemistry. Environ. Microbiol. 18:3057-3072. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13232.
O'Brien, C. E., Giovannelli, D., Govenar, B., Luther, G. W., Lutz, R. A., Shank, T. M. and Vetriani, C. (2015). Microbial biofilms associated with fluid chemistry and megafaunal colonization at post-eruptive deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Deep-Sea Research II 121:31-40 doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.07.020.
Grosche, A., Sekaran, H., Pérez-Rodríguez, I., Starovoytov, V. and Vetriani, C. (2015). Cetia pacifica gen. nov., sp. nov., a novel chemolithoautotrophic, thermophilic, nitrate-ammonifying bacterium from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent. Intl. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 65:1144-1150. doi:10.1099/ijs.0.000070.
Pérez-Rodríguez, I., Bolognini, M., Ricci, J., Bini, E. and Vetriani, C. (2015). From deep-sea volcanoes to human pathogens: A conserved quorum sensing signal in Epsilonproteobacteria. ISME J. 9:1222-1234. doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.214.
Vetriani, C., Voordeckers, J. W., Crespo-Medina, M., O’Brien, C., Giovannelli, D. and Lutz, R. A. (2014). Deep-sea hydrothermal vent Epsiloproteobacteria encode for a conserved and widespread nitrate reduction pathway (Nap). ISME J. 8:1510-1521. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.246.