Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

TGen-Luxembourg scientific team conducts unprecedented analysis of microbial ecosystem

27.11.2014

Research published in Nature Communications has implications for protecting environment, energy recovery and human health

An international team of scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) have completed a first-of-its-kind microbial analysis of a biological wastewater treatment plant that has broad implications for protecting the environment, energy recovery and human health.

The study, published Nov. 26 in the scientific journal Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/ncomm6603), describes in unprecedented detail the complex relationships within a model ecosystem.

The study focused on biofuel molecules, lipids, which are naturally accumulated by microbial mats and floated on top of wastewater. This is "free energy" as lipids can be converted into diesel fuel.

"Bacterial communities are everywhere, and understanding how they interact is critical to industry, agriculture, the environment and human health," said Dr. Paul Keim, Director of TGen's Pathogen Genomics Division, noting both the academic achievement and the applied implications of these research efforts.

"Basic principles of microbial community function can be established in one setting and then used to generate hypotheses and models applicable to all," said Dr. Keim, who also is a Regents Professor of Microbiology at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

The study's findings corroborate and unify various ecological concepts that have been primarily formulated based on observations in macrobiotic systems such as forests, rivers and oceans, which cannot be experimentally investigated in depth because of the sheer size of these biotopes.

For their analyses of the treatment plant ecosystem, the researchers employed Systems Biology methods. Wastewater destined for treatment comprises energy-rich substrates including fats, proteins, carbohydrates and many other substances that serve as nutrients for the resident bacteria. Every wastewater treatment plant is therefore a complex ecosystem. Countless bacterial species adapt to the living conditions in the water, compete for resources and each find a niche in which they can best survive.

"The techniques developed at LCSB allow us now to unravel these processes very precisely at the molecular level," says Dr. Emilie Muller of LCSB and the study's first author.

The basis for this are the so-called "omics" -- genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics -- combined with new bioinformatic methods for integrated data analysis.

"With these, we can determine from samples which organisms are living in the treatment plant, and what their population sizes, genetic make-up, activities and material turnovers are like. Therefore, there is no longer any need to study bacteria separately in pure cultures," Muller said. "Based on this, we can ultimately model the material flows in the 'treatment plant' ecosystem and describe, for example, which bacterial species will use and consume which substrate and to what degree."

The TGen-LCSB team wants to go further than simply modeling the wastewater treatment plant ecology. Their study aimed to understand what factors determine the species composition and accordingly the balance in the ecosystem.

One species of bacteria grabbed the researchers' attention: Microthrix parvicella, whose genome sequence they first decrypted two years ago. This bacterium can absorb and store an especially large amount of lipids. In winter, up to 50 percent of all bacteria on the surface of treatment tanks belong to this species. This is rather astonishing, given that the amount of lipids in the wastewater is rather low in winter, and Microthrix actually has unfavorable living conditions during that season.

The study found that Microthrix possesses 28 copies of the gene that is chiefly responsible for lipid uptake. The amplification of this gene illustrates how important lipid accumulation is for this organism and its associated community.

"Microthrix is what ecologists call a generalist. The organism can adapt to very many living conditions and thereby dominate the highly fluctuating wastewater treatment plant ecosystem," said Dr. Paul Wilmes, head of the LCSB group "Ecosystems Biology" and the study's senior author.

This is helped, among other things, by the 28 genes for lipid uptake, Wilmes said: "Each copy of the gene is a little different from the others. If the living conditions change, say when the temperature drops or the lipid composition changes, then a different lipid uptake gene adapted to that condition sets in. That way, Microthrix can survive in many different environments."

The study team's translational aim is to boost the activity of Microthrix to remove as many lipids from the wastewater as possible. The lipids from wastewater stored in the bacteria are a renewable energy source because they can be easily converted into biodiesel.

Dr. Lance Price, a TGen team member and study co-author, said such ecosystems research has important medical implications, as well: "The human microbiome is a similar community of microbes. It dominates many tissues and organ systems through microbiome metabolism, interaction with human cells, and its ability to protect us against pathogens. The systematic analysis of the waste water communities will lead to insights for human health as well as translational applications in sustainable energy."

About TGen

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: http://www.tgen.org

Steve Yozwiak | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View
22.06.2018 | University of Sussex

nachricht New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>