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Microbes from Hell$
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Patrick Forterre

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226265827

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226265964.001.0001

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(p.1) Prologue
Microbes from Hell

Patrick Forterre

, Teresa Lavender Fagan
University of Chicago Press

In the prologue, the author briefly presents microbes from hell with their fancy names such as Pyrococcus abyssi, the burning shell of the abyss. These microbes became famous at the end of the last century, because they encode thermostable enzymes, DNA polymerases, making possible to easily amplify DNA with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The author explains why he decided focusing on hyperthermophiles among all extremophiles living in extreme environments. This is because, unlike other extremophiles, microbes from hell exhibit a unique pattern of distribution in the living world. They are only present in two of the three domains of life, archaea and bacteria, being completely absent in eukaryotes. This raised many challenging questions: what are archaea and why most hyperthermophiles belong to this domain? Did life originated at high temperature and are microbes from hell relics of primordial living forms. All these questions will be raised in the various chapters and tentative answers will be presented.

Keywords:   hyperthermophiles, extremophiles, PCR, archaea, origin of life

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