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News Release - Queen's University researcher Peter Davies uncovers new antifreeze protein in the Arctic

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

KINGSTON - Queen’s University researcher Peter Davies and recent PhD graduate Phil Guo have uncovered a new antifreeze protein, discovered in a marine bacterium living under the sea ice.

Dr. Guo, who has worked closely with Dr. Davies on researching antifreeze proteins, determined this new protein was actually part of a chain of more than 100 proteins joined together and anchored to the outside of the bacterium. It was determined the role of this antifreeze protein was not to stop freezing but to help its host bacterium bind to the underside of the ice, providing the bacterium the oxygen it needs to survive.

“This bacterium needs oxygen and when ice covers the water blocking access to air the only sources of vital oxygen are the photosynthetic microorganisms like algae and diatoms that produce it as a waste product,” says Dr. Davies (Biochemistry, Biology). “These cells need light and yet relatively little passes through meters of snow-covered ice. Being right under the ice is the best place to intercept the sun’s faint energy source.”

One of the applications of this work will be in developing ways to stop bacteria from binding surfaces where they are not wanted. The Braslavsky Lab in Rehobot, Israel was able to show how antibodies to the antifreeze protein part of the giant ice-binding protein could completely block the bacteria from binding ice.

This international effort from six laboratories will be published in Science Advances with Dr. Guo as first author. He is now completing his postdoctoral work with Ilja Voets in Eindhoven.

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Anne Craig, Media Relations Officer

613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca

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