Before 1977, all life on Earth was classified into two groups: single-celled microorganisms and complex cellular life such as fungi, plants, and animals. A seminal discovery in 1977 rewrote the tree of life and introduced a whole new domain of organisms known as the archaea – mysterious microbes that are genetically distinct from bacteria. Fast forward to the 21st century, and again new discoveries about archaea are leading scientists to reshape the tree of life and rewrite the evolutionary history of complex organisms. Dr. Dipti Nayak introduces the fascinating organisms known as archaea and explains how they are helping scientists answer the question Where do we come from?.
In her second video, Nayak describes research she has done on methanogenic archaea – microorganisms that produce the potent greenhouse gas methane. One species of methanogens, Methanosarcina acetivorans, has unique chemical modifications on the enzyme it uses to produce methane. Dr. Nayak describes how she used CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to determine that these modifications are used to protect M. acetivorans from environmental stress to ensure that the organism can support its metabolic needs in a changing environment.
Dipti Nayak received her PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University in 2014. She performed postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois, where she studied the physiology and evolution of methanogenic archaea. The Nayak lab at UC Berkeley employs genetic, genomic, and biochemical tools to study the physiology, metabolism, evolution, and cell biology… Continue Reading