Iron-Tolerant Cyanobacteria

Implications for Astrobiology
  • Igor Brown
  • Carlton Allen
  • Daniel L. Mummey
  • Svetlana Sarkisova
  • David S. McKay

Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and the most abundant element in the Earth as a whole (Ehrilch, 2002). General agreement is that life evolved in the presence of soluble iron concentrations much greater than those typical today (MacLeod et al., 1994; Emerson and Moyer, 2002) and that life is based, therefore, on redox processes mediated by iron compounds (Beinert et al., 1997).

The importance of cyanobacteria (CB) to the geophysical evolution of life on Earth cannot be overstated. In addition to contributions to Earth’s biomass and poikilotrophy (Levit et al., 1999), cyanobacterial phototrophic activity from the Archean to present times is thought to have contributed significantly to presentday oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations of our atmosphere (ibid.), thus driving the evolution of modern oxygen-dependent organisms. Even though the evolutionary path of oxygenic photosynthesis is well studied (Xiong et al., 2000; Xiong and Bauer, 2002; Olson and Blankenship, 2004; Iverson, 2006), what triggered the transition from anoxygenic to oxygenic photosynthesis is still not clear. The answer to this question might be obtained by the search for coincidences between the remarkable events in Earth and life’s evolution.

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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Igor Brown
    • 1
  • Carlton Allen
    • 1
  • Daniel L. Mummey
    • 2
  • Svetlana Sarkisova
    • 1
  • David S. McKay
    • 1
  1. 1.National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space CenterHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MontanaMissoulaUSA

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