Thursday, 21 December 2017

New technique gauges microbial communities by biomass

A new technique devised by researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Calgary provides a more in-depth look at the composition of and activity within microbial communities -- the microscopic life within our bodies and all around us.

Rather than relying on a survey of the number of microbes present in a certain sample, the new technique attempts to assess the biomass -- the protein abundance -- of those microbes, which include bacteria, viruses and other tiny forms of life. Microbial communities play an important role in animal and plant health and disease, as well as in important environmental processes such as decomposition of organic matter and nutrient cycling in soils and oceans. Studies on these communities have become increasingly widespread in recent years.

The researchers tested the new method in Rocky Mountain alkaline soda lakes, slimy bodies of water with high salinity and pH values. They found, in one of the lakes, that the new method was able to identify algae that weren't found by the more common "counting" method.

The researchers also used the new method to examine an existing data set of saliva from multiple human mouths and found a lot more variation in microbial communities than previous studies showed.


Manuel Kleiner, Erin Thorson, Christine E. Sharp, Xiaoli Dong, Dan Liu, Carmen Li, Marc Strous. Assessing species biomass contributions in microbial communities via metaproteomics. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01544-x

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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