Responsible: Prof. Cesareo Saiz Jimenez
The IRNAS-CSIC group is composed of doctors in Chemistry, Biology, Archeology and Conservation Sciences, with extensive experience in the study of environmental microbiology (soils, water, air) and particularly in the subsurface (geomicrobiology), where the group is a world reference for the quality and quantity of publications, the isolation and description of new species of bacteria and fungi, and the study of their metabolism. These researchers have participated in numerous international projects funded by the EU and bilateral agreements with European, American and Asian groups. The IRNAS group, with a history of more than 30 years, has the mission of investigating the microbiology of terrestrial (subsurface) environments. During that period the group obtained contracts from the Ministries of Culture of Spain and France for studying the conservation of World Heritage caves (Altamira and Lascaux) as well as from the Regional Ministries of Culture of Cantabria, Extremadura and Andalusia for investigating caves in their communities. More than 20 new species of microorganisms were described. Of particular importance was the isolation and description of the fungus Ochroconis lascauxensis in the Cave of Lascaux (France), which was considered by the International Institute for Species Exploration, Arizona State University, as one of the 10 most important new species on the planet, discovered in 2012. New genera and species of bacteria were also isolated from Altamira Cave (Aurantimonas altamirensis, Nocardia altamirensis and Hoyosella altamirensis) and other Spanish caves. This activity has allowed to have a collection of bacteria of diverse origin, which the IRNAS group makes available to the project, together with those that will be obtained in the development of PROBIOMA, all of them capable of being investigated for the production of bioactive compounds. Likewise, the group carried out some studies in a mine of the Iberian Pyrite Belt in Portugal, where was found evidence of a metabolic activity in bacteria leading to mineral degradations.
Geochemical studies, microbial diversity, biodeterioration of cultural heritage, microbial-mineral relations and the search for biosignatures as a proxy for the exploration of life on other planets constitutes a part of the activities carried out in the last twenty years by the group. This whole collection is reflected in more than 500 publications of the project coordinator in various areas of knowledge, which are made available to the project. This group, which studies the bioactive compounds of microorganisms, is complemented by the Hercules Laboratory of the University of Évora and the University of the Algarve, which establishes an adequate synergy between R&D centers and companies related to mines.