Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetic Fingerprint unmasks Microbial Vandals

17.01.2006


For the first time DNA analysis can identify paper-degrading microorganisms. This is made possible by a molecular process developed for fungal infected documents at the University of Vienna with support from the Austrian Science Fund FWF. Fungal species can now be clearly identified by means of a DNA region known as ITS1, making it easier to choose effective countermeasures for conserving historic documents.



It is generally easy enough to say how the ravages of time take their toll on historically valuable papers. Given the right conditions, microorganisms such as fungi can colonise a document and gradually degrade it. However conventional methods for the accurate identification of these fungi are elaborate and imprecise. They require a relatively large amount of sampling material as well as the propagation and subsequent microscopic identification of the fungal sample - a lengthy and error-prone, process. A team led by Dr. Guadalupe Pinar at the University of Vienna Department of Medicinal Chemistry has now developed a process for quickly and unequivocally classifying fungal species on the basis of their DNA.

Multiple Mutations


Dr. Pinar has taken advantage of a special characteristic of the genetic material of many fungal species - a DNA region known as ITS1 which shows enormous differences in the sequencing of DNA base pairs from one strain to another. Outlining the source of these distinguishing features, Dr. Pinar said: "The ITS1 region is often subject to spontaneous mutations. These are harmless as this DNA region doesn’t have any recognisable function in the fungal genome and plays no direct part in the survivability of a fungal species. But the mutations result in each fungal species’ having its own typical ITS1 region and therefore a very unmistakable fingerprint."

Large amounts of DNA are required to analyse these sequence differences in molecular biological relationships. They could theoretically be obtained by using large amounts of the source material - but that is not an option with historic documents.

The researchers have now used state-of-the-art methods to clone sufficient quantities of the DNA needed. Astrid Michaelsen, a certified biologist and partner of Dr. Pinar’s team, explained: "We are using the polymerase chain reaction, a highly efficient process for cloning individual DNA regions. It allows us to produce large amounts of ITS1 fragments with a high degree of purity, even when only very small amounts of fungal material are available for the DNA extraction. This makes it possible to give maximum care to infected documents."

Breaking the Mould

Once sufficient ITS1 fragments have been cloned the actual DNA analysis can be performed. In a technique known as denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, the ITS1 fragments are applied to a gel which is subjected to an electrical charge. The ITS1 samples in this field of tension cover different distances depending on the mutations, so each distance is characteristic of a given fungal species. An exchange of even one base pair results in differences which allow the exact fungal species to be identified.

The new method has a further advantage over conventional techniques - even dead fungi can be used as source material. Michaelsen commented: "Fungi become inactive on paper after about 20 years, but the source material for our methods, the DNA, can be isolated from such material as well. This means that samples on which the fungi are inactive but the degradation process is still ongoing can also be investigated using our methods. This is where conventional techniques fall down, as they rely on culturing viable fungi."

The findings from this Austrian Science Fund FWF backed project will now make it possible to develop restoration and conservation measures that are tailored to each type of fungus. This will be carried out in cooperation with the Istituto Centrale per la Patologia del Libro in Rome, which is also providing the historical samples. The Austrian breakthrough will help preserve cultural treasures for future generations.

Till C. Jelitto | alfa
Further information:
http://www.fwf.ac.at/en/press/pv200601-en.html
http://www.prd.at

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Taming 'wild' electrons in graphene

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mountain glaciers shrinking across the West

23.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

Scientists track ovarian cancers to site of origin: Fallopian tubes

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>