Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Choosing cheese

18.07.2014

Researchers study cheese to unlock secrets of how microbial communities form

Go ahead and call Rachel Dutton's research cheesy if you must. As far as she's concerned, it's anything but an insult.

A Bauer Fellow at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' Center for Systems Biology, Dutton and her lab study cheese – or more precisely – the bacteria and fungi that live on cheese, in an effort to better understand how microbial communities form.

After studying 137 varieties of cheese collected in 10 different countries, Dutton has been able to identify three general types of microbial communities that live on cheese, opening the door to using each as a "model" community for the study of whether and how various microbes and fungi compete or cooperate as they form communities, what molecules may be involved in the process and what mechanisms may be involved. The study is described in a July 17 paper in Cell.

"We often use model organisms like E. coli or C. elegans because they can give us an understanding of the basic mechanisms and principles of how biology works," Dutton said. "The goal of this work was to identify something like a model organism, but for microbial communities – something we can bring into the lab and easily replicate and manipulate.

"The challenge in studying these communities is that many of the environments where they are found, such as the human body or the soil, are hard to replicate because they're so complicated," she continued. "Cheese seemed to offer a system…in which we knew exactly what these communities were growing on, so we thought we should be able to replicate that environment in the lab."

To understand what a model community might look like, Dutton and her lab first set out to identify dozens of naturally-occurring communities by collecting samples from the rinds of dozens of varieties of cheese around the world.

"We did some travelling in Europe and worked directly with a number of cheese-makers by having them send us samples or vising to collect samples, and in some cases we were able to collect samples from places like Formaggio Kitchen and other cheese shops," she said.

By sequencing those samples, Dutton was able to identify the type of bacteria and fungi in each, and found that while there was wide variation among different samples, the samples could be separated into one of three main types of communities.

"What we ended up finding is there are microbes which occur in all the areas where cheese is made," she said. "What was interesting is if you make the same type of cheese in France or in Vermont, they will have very similar communities. What seems to be driving the type of community you find is the environment that the cheese-maker creates on the surface of the cheese, so you can make two cheeses that are very similar in two different places, or you can make two very different cheeses in the same place."

Working in the lab, Dutton and colleagues were able to isolate each species of microbe and fungi found in the samples and conduct tests aimed at reproducing the communities found on different cheeses. "In many environments, it is challenging to isolate all of the microbes, so we were surprised to find that we could culture all of the species present on cheese rinds. This gives us a great foundation for being able to study communities in the lab," says Julie Button, a postdoctoral researcher in the Dutton lab.

"If we know a particular cheese has certain species, we can mix them together and try to recreate that community in the lab," Dutton said. "For example, we might try to simply put those species together at the same time in equal amounts to see if the community that forms is similar to that found in the sample."

The study was also aimed at understanding how various species of bacteria and fungi interact, and identified several instances in which certain bacteria halted fungal growth, and vice versa.

"We are now working with chemists to characterize what the molecules are that different bacteria might use to kill a fungus," Dutton said. "It's also possible that there may be anti-microbials that may arise from this that are normally at play during the formation of a community."

While wider applications for understanding how bacterial communities form may eventually emerge, Dutton said there are still a number of fundamental questions to answer in the short term.

"There are so many wide open questions in thinking about how microbial communities work, that future research could go in a number of different directions," she said. "Our goal is to understand some of these fundamental questions, such as: Are there certain principles that are operating as a community forms, and can we control those factors in the lab?

"Cheese is fascinating to me in its own right – it's somewhat surprising that, for a food that we've been eating for thousands of years, we don't have a complete understanding of the microorganisms that are present in this food."

But now that Dutton has that understanding, does she still eat cheese?

"I do," she said with a laugh. "But I'm very picky, because I like very good cheese now."

Peter Reuell | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: bacteria cheese environments fungi microbes microbial microbial communities replicate

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells
22.02.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht New insights into the information processing of motor neurons
22.02.2017 | Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>