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Research reveals key to world's toughest organism

Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as "the world's toughest bacterium," Deinococcus radiodurans can withstand extreme temperatures and drought conditions, lack of nutrients and a thousand times more radiation than a human being.

A new study by Cornell researchers reveals that nitric oxide -- a gas molecule used in many metabolic processes in animals and a pollutant in the atmosphere that leads to smog -- plays a key role in D. radiodurans' recovery when exposed to ultraviolet radiation (UV).

The study, appearing online Oct. 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may have implications for why and how nitric oxides act as signals in mammals for cell-to-cell communication, dilation of the vascular system and activating the immune system; in bacterial responses to antibiotic treatments; and in food safety efforts as D. radiodurans appears in some canned foods. The organism is also studied for use in environmental cleanup of sites contaminated with radiation and toxic chemicals.
 
 

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