One of our favorite freshwater organisms is the Actinobacteria acI, the tiny, streamlined bacterium that is found in freshwater worldwide. How is it so successful? One possibility is its light-powered hydrogen pump, actinorhodopsin, allows it to survive in a wide array of environments (check out this previous post for more on actinorhodopsin!) In order to learn more about this unique protein, we want to better understand its structure. However, a large amount of protein is necessary in order to study it.
The effort to harvest enough actinorhodopsin from Lake Mendota has been dubbed “Operation Mendota Drain” because of the large amounts of water that must be filtered. Filtering in the lab through a filter small enough to catch acI can be a time consuming task, so this is an all-day sampling effort. We are also collecting RNA samples at the same time.
Did we get enough actinorhodopsin? Stay tuned to find out, and in the meantime, check out this awesome field work in the video below!