News Release

Exploring the unseen: microbial wonders in earth's saltiest waters

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences

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Credit: Environmental Science and Ecotechnology

The study delves into hypersaline lakes in Xinjiang, China, exploring the genetic and metabolic diversity of microbial communities termed "microbial dark matters". Hypersaline lake ecosystems, characterized by extreme salinity, harbor unique microorganisms with largely unexplored biosynthesis and biodegradation capabilities. The research seeks to uncover novel biological compounds and pathways, potentially revolutionizing biotechnology, medicine, and environmental remediation by tapping into the untapped potential of these extremophiles.

A recent study ( published in Volume 20 of the journal Environmental Science and Ecotechnology, explores the largely unknown metabolic capabilities of unclassified microbial species in extreme environments, particularly hypersaline lakes, and their potential applications in biotechnology, medicine, and environmental remediation.

In this detailed study, researchers embarked on a scientific adventure to the salt-rich lakes of Xinjiang, China, aiming to explore the largely unknown world of microbial dark matters. These are microbes that thrive in environments with high levels of salt, which have not been classified due to their elusive nature. Utilizing advanced DNA sequencing techniques, the team cataloged an astonishing variety of over 3,000 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from 82 different families, most of which are new to science. They unearthed more than 9,000 unique biosynthesis gene clusters, 94% of which are novel, indicating a vast, untapped potential for new biological discoveries. This research not only expands our knowledge of life in extreme conditions but also opens exciting possibilities for new technologies and medical breakthroughs, leveraging the untapped resources of these unique microbial communities.


  • Over 3000 MAGs were obtained from hypersaline lakes that enriched genomic resources.
  • Microbial communities were significantly diversified across four hypersaline lakes.
  • We identified 8000+ potential biosynthetic gene clusters in uncultured microbes.
  • We uncovered biodegradation potential in several microbial dark matter lineages.

Ke Yu, the study's lead researcher, emphasized the significance of these discoveries for biotechnology and environmental remediation, highlighting the untapped potential of microbial dark matters in extreme environments.

The findings open new avenues for biotechnological innovation, emphasizing the untapped potential of microbial diversity in extreme environments. The discovery of novel biosynthesis pathways and biodegradation capabilities in these microbial communities can have far-reaching implications for developing new drugs, biotechnological processes, and environmental remediation methods.





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Funding information

The National Key Research and Development Program of China (2021YFA1301300); Nature Science Foundation of China (62202014 and 61972217); Shenzhen Basic Research Programs (JCYJ20190808183205731, JCYJ20220812103301001, and JCYJ20220813151736001); Science and Technology Planning Project of Shenzhen Municipality (JCYJ20200109120416654).

About Environmental Science and Ecotechnology

Environmental Science and Ecotechnology (ISSN 2666-4984) is an international, peer-reviewed, and open-access journal published by Elsevier. The journal publishes significant views and research across the full spectrum of ecology and environmental sciences, such as climate change, sustainability, biodiversity conservation, environment & health, green catalysis/processing for pollution control, and AI-driven environmental engineering. The latest impact factor of ESE is 12.6, according to the Journal Citation ReportTM 2022.

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