Physiological and Biochemical Adaptations of Psychrophiles

TitlePhysiological and Biochemical Adaptations of Psychrophiles
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsTeufel, AG, Morgan-Kiss, RM
Book TitleExtremophiles
PublisherCRC Press
CityBoca Raton

The cold biosphere encompasses many microorganism-dominated habitats that rely on light-dependent primary production. Within these environments, there are numerous physical and chemical factors limiting metabolism and growth that the microorganisms must overcome. The psychrophilic microorganisms discussed herein integrate a complex spectrum of adaptive strategies to survive these physiological challenges, including genome evolution, enzyme structure and catalysis rate changes, cryoprotectant formation, and a multitude of photosynthetic adaptations. Psychrophilic organisms also hold the key to biotechnical advances and the future, such that psychrophilic enzymes are used for everything from laboratory reagents and industrial work to medical research and environmental sustainability. Researchers have learned to exploit psychrophiles’ efficiency at low temperatures (i.e., cooler washing machines and energy-saving, cost-effective enzyme production), their higher energy activity (thus allowing lower concentrations of needed catalysts, reducing costs and procedure time), and their ability to contribute to hydrocarbon bioremediation. Although psychrophilic microbes exist in numerous habitats and undergo various adaptive strategies, an understanding of what makes an organism psychrophilic is still unknown in a large majority of cold-adapted organisms, and thus future investigations are needed regarding cold adaptation and their biotechnological potential. Even as research has increased over the last decade, new technological advances and high-throughput DNA sequencing will continue to provide information about cold adaptation or the mechanisms needed for survival in a changing world.