hyperthermophile

While many people may find 50°C (roughly 120°F) to be quite past their comfort zone, many thermophiles thrive between 45 and 122°C, with the toleration for the higher end (< 75°C) being hyperthermophiles. Thermophiles are organisms that can withstand – and sometimes even require – high temperatures to survive, hence their meaning “heat-loving.”

 Thermophiles are both prokaryotic and eukaryotic, though the microorganisms growing in the most extreme environments are archaea. Hot springs and deep-sea thermal vents can be found throughout the world, but a number of the studied thermophiles are concentrated in Yellowstone National Park, USA.

 What makes thermophiles so interesting is their ability to survive under high temperatures without denaturing their proteins. Thermophiles have special enzymes called extremozymes that are more tightly bound than enzymes at normal temperatures. Additionally, thermophile enzymes tend to have less glycine. Since glycine is the smallest and simplest amino acid, it typically allows proteins to be more flexible. Having less glycine in their structures would allow extremozymes to be more rigid and more resistant against extreme temperatures.

 Since extremozymes are able to function under extreme conditions, these enzymes have become well incorporated in biotechnological applications, such as PCR.

 Photo credit: harrell-enb150.blogspot.com

Game of Thrones may be set in a magical realm with fictional creatures that have make-beileve powers, but the science behind the stories is sometimes not far from reality. For example, there are species on Earth that share a surprising number of similarities to the crazy critters from Game of Thrones.

Take the hyperthermophilic bacterium Pyrodictium, which grows in deep-sea vents and can withstand temperatures as high as 400 °C. The Targaryens, then, may just be another example of a hyperthermophile.

You guys, my article finally got published! It was supervised by a geneticist/genetics instructor so I promise you the science in it is fairly legitimate :)!