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Access to the article is free, however registration and sign-in are required. One of the most prominent members of the hydrothermal vent community is the tube-worm Riftia pachyptila, a siboglinid polychaete that has become the unofficial poster child for hydrothermal vents. Riftia has no mouth, gut, or anus and cannot feed by normal means. Instead, Riftia depends on intracellular chemoautotrophic symbionts--which fill a large internal organ called the trophosome--for nutrition. The symbionts are gamma-proteo-bacteria, which are functionally analogous to plant chloroplasts in that they generate organic carbon as a food source for their worm host (using sulfide as an electron donor and oxygen as an electron acceptor). Key to understanding the biology of Riftia and other chemoautotrophic symbioses is an understanding of the biology of their symbionts. However, no chemoautotrophic symbiont has ever been cultured in a laboratory, and this has long hampered our ability to study their metabolism. Markert et al. use a proteomic approach to examine protein expression in Riftia symbionts and gain new insights into their biochemistry and metabolism.
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