Genomics and genetics of thaumarchaea

Archaea is the least studied among the three domains of life. The phylum Thaumarchaeota in particular was only established in 2008 and remains largely uncharacterized, despite its ubiquitous presence in virtually all aerobic terrestrial and aquatic environments on Earth, from oceans and all types of soil to human skin. 

Thaumarchaeota play a key role in the nitrogen cycle, performing ammonia-oxidation to nitrite, radically changing our perception of the ecological importance of Archaea

To date, only very limited information concerning the origin, evolution, ecology, cell organization and genome content of Thaumarchaea is available. Hence, there is an urgent need to gain deeper knowledge of this group of archaea on physiological and molecular levels. 

To undertake these studies it is indispensable to establish reliable laboratory models of these organisms, which is the major focus of our team created in January 2014. 

Our current research efforts involve three complementary strategies : 

  • development of new molecular markers and systematic screening of various ecological niches to isolate new species of Thaumarchaea
  • sequencing and in silico analysis of interesting candidates, representing different groups of Thaumarchaeota
  • establishment of fast-growing and easy-to-cultivate laboratory models. 

Once convenient laboratory models are established, molecular and physiological studies will help in filling the gap that is currently plaguing the advancement of knowledge related to this ecologically important new group of prokaryotes.