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Deep-sea hydrothermal vents: a natural pollution laboratory

Objective

Problems to be solved (while also addressing the relevant EU policies)
From an applied perspective, the hydrothermal environment provides a useful analogue of anthropogenically polluted marine environments, with the notable and important difference that the complex biological communities which live around deep-sea vents can be traced back in the fossil record to at least the Mesozoic era, thus having allowed sufficient time for the evolution of special adaptations to evolve to combat environmental toxicity. These novel biochemical and molecular adaptations have the potential for important biotechnological discoveries. VENTOX thus has important wealth creation and quality of life implications.
Scientific objectives and approach
The aim of this research project is to carry out innovative research into the specialised adaptations and processes found in representatives of the mid-Atlantic deep-sea hydrothermal vent fauna and its associated microbial populations. The goal being to identify those special adaptations that vent organism posses that have evolved to deal with their highly stressful and toxic environment. An important part of VENTOX will be the establishment of a shore-based deep-sea laboratory in the Azores (LABHORTA), to which cages of vent organisms will be transferred at intervals to provide research material. Another innovative component of the VENTOX project is the use of the IPOCAMP hyperbaric chamber in which vent organisms will be studied under natural pressure conditions. From a fundamental perspective, considerable effort will go into establishing the micro-scale distribution of vent communities, and quantifying the chemical conditions under which specific species live and the toxicant burdens found in their tissues. These measurements will provide the basis for the molecular, biochemical and physiological studies which will be carried out mainly at LabHorta on vent crustaceans, mussels and gastropods, to provide valuable new insights into their heavy metal, pH, temperature, CO2 and sulphide tolerances, bacterial and mega faunal production rates, rates of DNA damage and repair, and the identification of endosymbiont-mediated detoxification processes relevant to bioremediation.
Expected impacts
While the fundamental aim of VENTOX is to extend our knowledge of the conditions experienced by vent organisms and the special adaptations they have evolved to resist toxicant stress, an important secondary objective is the generation of findings and material that will be of relevance to SME-based exploitation in the fields of biochemistry (DNA repair enzymes), deep-sea pressure technology (flow-through pressure chamber, IPOCAMP) and microbial biotechnology (e.g. detoxification and bioremediation).

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL
Address
Empress Dock
SO14 3ZH Southampton
United Kingdom

Participants (9)

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE
France
Address
Place Georges Teissier, Station Biologique
29682 Roscoff
CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE
France
Address
Avenue De Fontaulé 1
66651 Banyuls Sur Mer
IFREMER - INSTITUT FRANÇAIS DE RECHERCHE POUR L'EXPLOITATION DE LA MER
France
Address
Centre De Brest
29280 Plouzane
IFREMER - INSTITUT FRANÇAIS DE RECHERCHE POUR L'EXPLOITATION DE LA MER
France
Address

29280 Plouzane
INSTITUTE OF MARINE RESEARCH
Portugal
Address
Estrada Do Guincho
2750 Cascais
INSTITUTE OF MARINE RESEARCH
Portugal
Address
C/o Departmento De Oceanografia E Pescas - Univers
9900 Horta
UNIVERSIDADE DO ALGARVE
Portugal
Address
322,Campus De Gambelas
8000 Faro
UNIVERSITE PIERRE ET MARIE CURIE - PARIS VI
France
Address
Quai Saint-bernard 9, Bètiment C30
75252 Paris
UNIVERSITY OF WALES - BANGOR
United Kingdom
Address
Askew Street
LL59 5EY Gwynedd