Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Choosing your neighbors: MBL scientists see how microbes relate in space

Like people in cities, microbes often live in complex communities that contain many different microbial types. Also like us, microbes tend to gravitate to and "hang out" with certain other types in their community, more than with the rest. And sometimes, when opportunities arise, they move to more favorable locations.

But until recently, scientists have not been able to look at a microbial community and distinguish the spatial relationship of more than 2 or 3 kinds of microbes at once.

Now, a microscopy technique developed at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), allows scientists to see the spatial arrangement of up to 28 differently labeled microbes in a single field of view.

"We get information on the presence of many different microbes at once and get it quickly, cheaply, and perhaps more accurately than other methods," says Gary Borisy, president and director of the MBL and co-author of a paper describing the technique published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Just as you may move to a certain neighborhood because the schools are good for your kids, the neighborhood is important for microbes," Borisy says. "When we find out where (in a community) they like to hang out, that has implications for how they function."

The new technique, called CLASI-FISH (combinatorial labeling and spectral imaging fluorescent in situ hybridization), is faster than traditional ways of identifying the microbes in a sample (by laboratory culture or by DNA sequencing). Plus, it reveals the spatial structure of the community, which these methods do not.

"We don't just find out who is there. We find out where they are in space," Borisy says.

Borisy and his colleagues, including Floyd Dewhirst of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, used the technique to analyze dental plaque, a complex biofilm that is known to contain at least 600 species of microbes. They were able to visually discriminate 15 different microbial types, and to determine which 2 types (Prevotella and Actinomyces) showed the most interspecies associations.

"That might imply some functional interaction between them," Borisy says. "One may be facilitating the other to colonize the site, and the exchange will reap some benefit for them both."

The lead author on the paper is Alex M. Valm, a student in the Brown-MBL Graduate Program in Biological and Environmental Sciences. Another team member, MBL scientist Jessica Mark Welch, is leading the effort to apply CLASI-FISH to the organization of microbial communities in another setting—the guts of mice harboring defined populations of human microbes.

"It's very possible that this technology will enable a new kind of clinical diagnostic procedure, so that it will be possible to very quickly and accurately diagnose a specimen for many kinds of microbes at once," Borisy says. "As an alternative to culturing, it could be faster, cheaper, and better."



Valm, A.M., Mark Welch, J.L., Rieken, C.W., Hasegawa, Y., Sogin, M.L., Oldenbourg, R., Dewhirst, F.E., and Borisy, G.G. (2011) Systems-level analysis of microbial community organization through combinatorial labeling and spectral imaging. PNAS Early Edition (Feb. 14), doi/10.1073/pnas.1101134108.

The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in 1888 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the MBL is an independent, nonprofit corporation.

Diana Kenney | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'
16.03.2018 | Emory Health Sciences

nachricht Scientists map the portal to the cell's nucleus
16.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>