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Archaebacteria

Archaebacteria are the oldest organisms living on the Earth. They are
unicellular prokaryotes and belong to the kingdom, Archaea. They were
first discovered in 1977 and classified as bacteria. Most Archaebacteria
appear like bacteria, when observed under the microscope. However,
they are quite different from bacteria and eukaryotic organisms.
Archaebacteria are found in very harsh conditions such as in the
volcanic vents or at the bottom of the sea. They can easily survive in
such extreme environment as sea vents releasing sulfide-rich gases,
hot springs, or boiling mud around volcanoes.

Kingdom: Archaebacteria

Type of Organism: Cellular Structure: Prokaryotic


Unicellular
Habitat: Extreme Peptidoglycan in Cell Wall: Absent
Environment
Reproduction Method: Nutrition Mode: Heterotrophs or
Asexual Autotrophs

Characteristics

i. Archaebacteria are obligate anaerobes and they survive only in


oxygen-free environments.
ii. They are known as extremophiles, as they are able to live in a variety
of environment. Some species can live in the temperatures above
boiling point at 1000 C or 2120 F. They can also survive in acidic,
alkaline or saline aquatic environment. Some can withstand a pressure
of more than 200 atmospheres.
iii. The size of archaebacteria ranges from one-tenth of a micrometer to
more than 15 micrometers. Some of archaebacteria have flagella.
iv. Like all prokaryotes, archaebacteria don't possess the membrane-
bound organelles. They don't have nuclei, endoplasmic reticula, Golgi
complexes, mitochondria, chloroplasts, or lysosomes. The cells consist
of a thick cytoplasm that contains all the compounds and molecules
required for metabolism and nutrition. Their cell wall doesn't contain
peptidoglycan. The rigid cell wall supports the cell and allows an
archaebacterium to maintain its shape. It also protects the cell from
bursting when present in a hypotonic environment.
v. Archaebacteria have lipids in their cell membranes. They are
composed of branched hydrocarbon chains, connected to glycerol by
ether linkages.
vi. Since these organisms don't have nuclei, the genetic material floats
freely in the cytoplasm. They consist of ribosomal RNA (rRNA). Their
DNA contains a single, circular molecule, which is compact and tightly
wound. No protein is associated with DNA.
vii. The archaebacterial cell may contain plasmids, which are small,
circular pieces of DNA. They can duplicate independent of a larger,
genomic DNA circle. Plasmids often code for antibiotic resistance or
particular enzymes.
viii. Archaebacteria have been found to be indifferent to all major
antibiotics. However, they have been observed to be sensitive towards
those chemicals/drugs that obstruct the lipid cycle involved in wall
polymer biosynthesis.
ix. Archaebacteria reproduce by an asexual process known as binary
fission. During this process, the bacterial DNA replicates. The cell wall
pinches off in the center, due to which the organism is divided into two
new cells. Each cell consists of a copy of circular DNA. Some species
can multiply from one cell into two in as less time as 20 minutes.
x. During transformation, DNA fragments released by one
archaebacterium are taken up by another. In the process of
transduction, a bacteriophage (a virus infecting bacterial cells)
transfers genetic material from one organism to another. In the
process of conjugation, genetic material is exchanged between two
bacteria. These mechanisms lead to genetic recombination, causing
the continued evolution of archaebacteria.
xi. The interactions between archaebacteria and other life forms are
either symbiotic or commensal as archaea are not known to pose
pathogenic hazard to other organisms.
xii. A characteristic unique to archaea is the composition of their cell walls.
The archaebacteria cell wall is made of pseudomurein, which is made
up of a combination of N-acetyltalosaminuronic acid and N-
acetylglucosamine. This kind of cell wall makes archaebacteria
immune to the effects of Lysozyme, which is an enzyme produced by a
host's immune system to attack and disable cell walls of pathogenic
bacteria.
SUB-GROUPS OF ARCHAEBACTERIA
MetM ethanobacteri
h ano u m , M ethanococcus, M ethanospi r i l u m
gens
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Metes a nogens ar e able t o r e duce CO2 i n t o m et h ane ( C H4) .
HalTheyo coccus,
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IMPORTANCE OF ARCHAEBACTERIA
Archaebacteria are important, almost indispensable, for the following
reasons:
a. They have phylogenetic importance that helps in studying their
homology and establish their phylogeny.
b. Their ability to tolerate extreme conditions helps researchers learn
about the climatic conditions, environment and their survival on
ancient earth.
c. Methanogens can grow in biogas fermentors and decompose cow
dung into methane gas as a by-product. Thus, they are used for
production of domestic gas for cooking.
d. Organisms like Methanobacterium ruminantium are present in the
guts of ruminating animals, helping them digest the cellulose.
e. Poor ores of molybdenum are microbial leached using Sulfolobus.
f. Archaebacteria are also used to synthesize thermophilic enzymes,
restriction enzymes and are also used as biosensors.
g. Archaebacteria have an important role in many chemical cycles, like
carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, sulfur cycle, etc.
h. Due to their extremophilic nature, archaebacteria have proven to be
of great help in the field of Bioechnology, by helping in the
production of enzymes that work at very high temperatures, as well
as in the production of some antibiotics.