Tag Archives: microorganisms

Researcher Uses ‘Shotgun Sequencing’ to Study Microorganisms

Bonnie Hurwitz’s genome sequencing research aims to help doctors offer more personalized treatment plans more quickly.

The rice genome. The grape genome. The original human genome project. You name it, Bonnie Hurwitz probably worked on it in her 12 years as a computational biologist in industry, where she combined her loves for genomics and computer programming. (more…)

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Floods didn’t provide nitrogen ‘fix’ for earliest crops in frigid north

Floods didn’t make floodplains fertile during the dawn of human agriculture in the Earth’s far north because the waters were virtually devoid of nitrogen, unlike other areas of the globe scientists have studied.

Instead, the hardy Norsemen and early inhabitants of Russia and Canada have microorganisms called cyanobacteria to mostly thank for abundant grasses that attracted game to hunt and then provided fodder once cattle were domesticated. The process is still underway in the region’s pristine floodplains. (more…)

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Scientists review the ecological effects of sea ice loss

The Arctic Ocean has more open water each summer, a trend most scientists predict will continue in coming years. September 2012 set the record for the most open water since satellite observations began.

A University of Washington researcher is co-author on a review paper published (Aug. 2) in the journal Science looking at the ecological consequences of sea ice decline.

Led by corresponding author Eric Post, a biologist at Pennsylvania State University, the international team looked at effects on animals ranging from microorganisms to polar bears. As well as obvious changes for organisms that live in or on the ice, there also are trickle-down effects for food webs, animal behavior, species ranges, interbreeding and disease dynamics. (more…)

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Newly Discovered Marine Viruses Offer Glimpse Into Untapped Biodiversity

Studying bacteria from the Baltic Sea, UA researchers have discovered an entire array of previously unknown viruses that barely resemble any of the known bacteria-infecting viruses.

Researchers of the University of Arizona’s Tucson Marine Phage Lab have discovered a dozen new types of unknown viruses that infect different strains of marine bacteria.  (more…)

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Deep Biosphere Harbors Active, Growing Communities of Microorganisms

The deep biosphere—the realm of sediments far below the seafloor—harbors a vast ecosystem of bacteria, archaea, and fungi that are actively metabolizing, proliferating, and moving, according a new study by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Delaware (UD).

“This is the first molecular evidence for active cell division in the deep biosphere,” says WHOI postdoctoral investigator Bill Orsi, who was the lead author on the study. Previous studies and models had suggested cells were alive, but whether the cells were actually dividing or not had remained elusive. (more…)

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Measuring Microbes Makes Wetland Health Monitoring More Affordable, Says MU Researcher

Understanding microbe communities could improve wetland wastewater treatment systems

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Wetlands serve as the Earth’s kidneys. They filter and clean people’s water supplies while serving as important habitat for many species, including iconic species like cattails, cranes and alligators. Conventional ecosystem health assessments have focused on populations of these larger species. However, the tiny, unseen creatures in the wetlands provided crucial indicators of the ecosystems’ health in a study by University of Missouri Associate Professor of Engineering Zhiqiang Hu and his team. Using analysis of the microbiological health of wetlands is cheaper and faster than traditional assessments, and could lead to improvements in harnessing natural processes to filter humans’ wastewater.

“During road and building construction, engineers must sacrifice wetlands to development, but laws dictate that these lost wetlands be compensated for by establishing a wetland somewhere else,” said Hu. “Our research could be applied to both monitor the success of these compensation wetlands and guide conservationists in inoculating new engineered ecosystems with the correct types of microorganisms.” (more…)

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How a Microbial Biorefinery Regulates Genes

Digesting lignin, a highly stable polymer that accounts for up to a third of biomass, is a limiting step to producing a variety of biofuels. Researchers at Brown have figured out the microscopic chemical switch that allows Streptomyces bacteria to get to work, breaking lignin down into its constituent parts.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Microorganisms that can break down plant biomass into the precursors of biodiesel or other commodity chemicals might one day be used to produce alternatives to petroleum. But the potential of this “biorefinery” technology is limited by the fact that most microorganisms cannot break down lignin, a highly stable polymer that makes up as much as a third of plant biomass.

Streptomyces bacteria are among few microorganisms known to degrade and consume lignin. Now a group of researchers at Brown University has unlocked the genetic and molecular mechanisms behind a key part of that process. The results are published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research. (more…)

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Revealing the Secrets of Motility in Archaea

Scientists from Berkeley Lab and the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology analyze a unique microbial motor

The protein structure of the motor that propels archaea has been characterized for the first time by a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Germany’s Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Terrestrial Microbiology.

The motility structure of this third domain of life has long been called a flagellum, a whip-like filament that, like the well-studied bacterial flagellum, rotates like a propeller. But although the archaeal structure has a similar function, it is so profoundly different in structure, genetics, and evolution that the researchers argue it deserves its own name: archaellum. (more…)

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