On the weekend of 14 – 15 November 2015, members of the Deep Carbon Observatory’s Deep Life and Extreme Physics and Chemistry Communities, as well as researchers previously unaffiliated with DCO, collaborated on a workshop designed to jumpstart a new DCO initiative in "Extreme Biophysics".
The Deep Carbon Observatory workshop, Extreme Biophysics: Molecular Adaptation to Life at the Extremes took place at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in Washington, D.C. The workshop brought together 25 members of the DCO science network and an equal number of newcomers to DCO, who hailed from the USA, France, Germany, Canada, Belgium, the UK, and Italy. These diverse community experts shared information about the state of knowledge in their fields and identified collaborative projects to pursue.
The workshop began with a brief introduction by DCO Co-Executive Director Russell Hemley (Carnegie Institution of Washington, USA) and workshop Organizing Committee member Roland Winter (University of Dortmund, Germany). The major goals of the workshop included:
1. Articulate 2-3 highly significant questions about the biophysics underlying life in and adaption to extreme environments
2. Identify 3-5 tractable systems amenable to biophysical research AND that involve fundamental physiological functions key to growth, adaptation or survival in extreme conditions
3. Outline a strategy to move forward with organized research programs in one or more of the identified areas
Each day of the workshop contained a morning and afternoon session. On Saturday, the morning session focused on Microbes and Molecules Under Extremes and the afternoon session addressed Experimental and Theoretical Tools in Extreme Biophysics. Both sessions were composed of presentations from workshop participants, and a discussion period and poster session followed the afternoon talks. On Sunday, the morning session contained presentations about the Deep Life and Extreme Physics and Chemistry Communities. The Sunday afternoon session shifted the focus from presentations to discussion, and breakout groups brainstormed about High Pressure Biophysics in vivo and Molecular and Microbial Targets from Extremophiles. After the breakout groups, all participants reconvened for a plenary discussion, titled Topics of Mutual Interest and a Framework for Future Scientific Synergies.
Workshop participants identified four major areas to target for future extreme biophysics research: membranes, piezolytes, genome function, and bioenergetics. This research will be aided by an innovative new instrument that allows for sampling and growing cultures from the deep ocean without decompression – the PUSH50. Karyn Rogers (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA) presented the PUSH50, or Pressurized Underwater Sample Handler (50 ml). This new tool evolved under the guidance of Isabelle Daniel (Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France) and Rogers following the DCO Bioreactor Sandpit Workshop in 2013, and is now being tested for DCO community use at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. In addition to the PUSH50, workshop Organizing Committee Chair Cathy Royer (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA) presented a high-pressure, high-resolution microscope system under development in her laboratory.
The workshop organizers are preparing a white paper summarizing the outcomes from the workshop. All workshop participants will have an opportunity to comment on the white paper, and the organizers will incorporate this community input, in order to facilitate research in this exciting new development in DCO science.