Life in the Deep-Freeze

Life as we know it requires liquid water. However Dr. Junge and her collaborators found evidence of ice bacterial protein synthesis to liquid nitrogen temperature (–196°C) when bacterial polymers were present and samples were (likely) vitrified during her postdoc (with Jody Deming and Hajo Eicken) and continuing on with Brian Swanson (New Scientist article).

Currently, she is exploring the relationship between this deep-freeze bacterial activity, proteomics, polymers and the physical state of the ice in collaboration with Brook Nunn from the Goodlet laboratory here at the University of Washington and Hajo Eicken at UAF. This collaboration puts them in a unique position to solve an incredible puzzle (i.e. if and how can life be active without liquid water being present) and will provide important keys to questions regarding life under extreme conditions, be it in the atmosphere or elsewhere in the universe.

Data set available from NASA’s Global Change Master Directory

Funding Source: NSF-OPP grants 0338333 and 0739783