Our group in Advanced Biology is called TAQ because previous groups attempted to identify a species they believed to be similar to Thermus Aquaticus (TAQ). Past groups wanted to identify this species to see if it has a gene similar to the TAQ polymerase gene, which is useful in PCR because of its heat resistance. However, we have recently successfully amplified and sequenced the 16s rRNA gene, a gene with universal primers used to identify species. We have found that our bacteria is similar to many different species of Thermus, including Thermus Thermopholus, Thermus Brachianus, and Thermus Aquaticus. We are currently using already sequenced polymerase genes from these similar species to design primers we can use to amplify our polymerase gene.

We found our bacteria in a local hot springs called Vulcan Hot Springs in central Idaho. Vulcan's isolation from other hot springs could lead to genetic differences, making it different from other thermus species. Our bacteria thrives at temperatures around 75 degrees Celsius. This could make our bacteria useful for catalyzing reactions that are needed to get rid of pollution in industry as well as other reactions that require a heat-durable enzyme.

In order to sequence the 16s gene in our Vulcan species, we grew samples of the bacteria, used the Mo-Bio isolation kit to isolate the DNA, ran PCR to amplify the gene, ran gel electrophoresis to ensure that we had enough DNA that was the correct number of base pairs. Our results from gel electrophoresis also showed us whether or not all parts of the process were done correctly. After this series of processes, we sent our samples to our mentor, Dr. Roberto, who is a microbiology specialist stationed at Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls. He sequenced our samples and gave us raw data that we used to make a consensus sequence. We received our results from the 16s rRNA gene, made our consensus sequence, and BLASTed it, which compared it known species of Thermus as well as other DNA. BLAST showed that our species is closely related to Thermus Thermophilus, Thermus Brockianus, and Thermus Aquaticus. We then designed primers based on these results. We are now working on testing these primers to see how effective they are. We found that some of the primers we designed using the Brochianus polymerase gene seem to be amplifying a DNA segment that is the correct length to be the polyerase gene. We are now ready to begin cloning the gene into ecoli so that we can begin growing it more quickly and eventually have it sequenced.

The 2010/2011 TAQ group currently consists of 3 members: Two juniors; Haley Hinze and Stephanie Rosen, and one sophomore; Will Fleck.

From Left to Right: Will Fleck, Haley Hinze, and Stephanie Rosen