Friday’s Featured Organism: Pyrococcus furiosus

Pyrococcus furiosus

Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire!

Pirococcus furiosus! The “furious ball of fire”! Probably one of the most badass name in the binomial nomenclature. The little guy is an Archaea, a group of unicellular organisms that look like Bacteria and yet are more closely related to Eukarya (us… and algae, and moss, and roaches, and amoebas…). Most Archaea are extremophiles, living only in extreme conditions that would be deadly for most other organisms, and P. furiosus, as the name implies, just likes it hot: it grows between 70 °C and 103 °C, to be precise. Its DNA polymerase, the Pfu DNA polymerase (and the polymerase of other thermophiles, like the Taq polymerase of Thermus aquaticus, a Bacteria) is used in PCR (if you don’t know what it is, it’s a widely used technique to amplify a sequence of DNA generating millions of copies of it) because the repeated high temperatures used in this technique would deactivate a normal DNA polymerase.

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