An Interview With GFAJ-1, the Arsenic-Eating Bacterium

Today NASA announced the discovery of a bacterium, called GFAJ-1, that can use arsenic in place of phosphorus. GFAJ-1 has graciously agreed to do an interview with us.

GFAJ-1 grown on arsenic
NASA photo of GFAJ-1 (Image Credit: Jodi Switzer Blum)

Unlikely Explanations: Let me start with the one question that’s on everyone’s mind. No other life form on Earth can use — or even tolerate — arsenic the way you do. Are you from outer space?
GFAJ-1: No, I’m from California. A lot of people confuse the two.

Unlikely Explanations: Thriving on arsenic the way you do is a major accomplishment. How did you do it?
GFAJ-1: It was a slow process that occurred over many generations. I won’t lie — initially, my family was as intolerant of arsenic as anyone else. But then arsenic started moving into the neighborhood, and we realized we’d have to adapt somehow.
Continue reading “An Interview With GFAJ-1, the Arsenic-Eating Bacterium”