Metabolism

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
UNSW
Title: 

Key to living in the extreme desert soils of eastern Antarctica: a chemolithotrophic lifestyle

Abstract: 

Mitchell Peninsula is located at the south of the Windmill Islands, Eastern Antarctica. It is described as a nutrient poor, extreme polar desert and limited knowledge on the microbial diversity of  the soils in this area exists. We examined the microbial taxonomic composition and metabolic potential of Mitchell Peninsula soils  using 16S metagenomics and shotgun metagenomics. We found the site to be a potential biodiversity hotspot, containing a high abundance of Candidate Phyla WPS2 and AD3. Subsequently, differential binning was used to recover 23 draft genomes, including 3 genomes from WPS-2 and two from AD3.  Further analysis of the metagenome revealed a novel Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RubisCO) gene to be abundant in the bacterial community, despite a lack of evidence for photosynthesis related genes. We believe that unlike many other Antarctic regions, chemolithautrophic carbon fixation via CBB cycle is the dominant carbon fixation pathway, hence this pathway is providing the key to survival is this very dry, hostile environment. 

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 15:00 - 15:30
Institution: 
University of East Anglia
Title: 

Bacterial metabolism of isoprene

Abstract: 

Isoprene (methyl isobutene), is a climate-active volatile organic compound that is released into the atmosphere in similar quantities to that of methane, making it one of the most abundant trace volatiles. Large amounts of isoprene are produced by trees but also substantial amounts are released by microorganisms. The consequences on climate are complex. Isoprene can indirectly act as a global warming gas but in the marine environment it is also thought to promote aerosol formation, thus promoting cooling through increased cloud formation. We have been studying bacteria that grow on isoprene. These aerobic bacteria appear to be widespread in the terrestrial and marine environment. Rhodococcus AD45, our model organism, oxidizes isoprene using a soluble diiron centre monooxygenase which is similar to soluble methane monooxygenase. The physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology of Rhodococcus AD45 will be described, together with genome analysis, transcriptome analysis and regulatory mechanisms of isoprene degradation by bacteria. The ecology of isoprene degraders in both the terrestrial and marine environment will be described, together with DNA-Stable Isotope Probing experiments which have enabled us to identify active isoprene degraders in the environment.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 19:00 - 20:00
Institution: 
UTS, Australia
Title: 

Feeling Hot Hot Hot: Insights on thermal regulation of microbial carbon fixation and metabolism in a warming ocean

Abstract: 

Ocean warming is expected to affect marine microbial phototrophs directly by influencing their metabolism and capacity for photosynthesis as well as indirectly through altering the supply of resources needed for growth. In turn, changes in phototrophic community composition, biomass and size structure are expected to have cascading impacts on export production, food web dynamics and fisheries yields, as well as the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and other elements. As a result, temperature is a critical parameter in coupled climate-ocean models because it influences not only the magnitude, but also the direction of future ocean productivity.
 
This seminar presents data from several recent oceanographic voyages to suggest that the statistically significant relationships found between temperature and carbon fixation of contemporary ocean microbes is confounded by the availability of co-varying light and nutrient resources, and challenges the notion that satellite-derived sea surface temperature is a suitable proxy for tracking changes in upper ocean biogeochemical function. It will also present laboratory data which demonstrates that thermal selection of photosynthetic microbes (over >100 generations) results in phenotypic trait evolution and shifts in photosynthesis:respiration. Collectively, these data show non-linearity in metabolism of photosynthetic microbes in a warming ocean, pointing to increased variability of responses and potentially less predictability in models.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
University of Sydney
Title: 

Genome evolution in Blattabacterium cuenoti

Abstract: 

In addition to harbouring intestinal symbionts, some animal species also possess intracellular symbiotic microbes. The relative contributions of gut-resident and intracellular symbionts to host metabolism, and how they coevolve are not well understood. Cockroaches and the termite Mastotermes darwiniensis present a unique opportunity to examine the evolution of spatially separated symbionts, as they harbour gut symbionts and the intracellular symbiont Blattabacterium cuenoti. The genomes of B.cuenoti from M.darwiniensis and the social wood-feeding cockroach Cryptocercus punctulatus are each missing most of the pathways for the synthesis of essential amino acids found in the genomes of relatives from non-wood-feeding hosts. Hypotheses to explain this pathway degradation include: (i) feeding on microbes present in rotting wood by ancestral hosts; (ii) the evolution of high-fidelity transfer of gut microbes via social behaviour. To test these hypotheses, we sequenced the B.cuenoti genome of a third wood-feeding species, the phylogenetically distant and non-social Panesthia angustipennis.We show that host wood-feeding does not necessarily lead to degradation of essential amino acid synthesis pathways in B.cuenoti, and argue that ancestral high-fidelity transfer of gut microbes best explains their loss in strains from M.darwiniensis and C.punctulatus.
 

Event Date: 
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 19:00 - 19:30
Institution: 
University of NSW
Title: 

Who’s doing what? A metaproteomic survey of Southern Ocean microbes near Antarctica.

Abstract: 

The ocean around Antarctica is not just cold, it’s also dark for a large part of the winter.  This means that carbon fixation by photosynthesis is inhibited during the polar winter.  We used metaproteomics to reconstruct the ecology of microbes at the surface of the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic Peninsula, for both winter and summer seawater samples.  Metagenomics (community genomics) tells us what kinds of genes are present.  Metaproteomics goes a step further and determines which proteins (including enzymes) are actively being produced by microbes within a community.  Therefore, we can use this approach to reconstruct microbial processes used for carbon fixation, nutrient acquisition, and other metabolic pathways.  We found that ammonia-oxidising archaea were dominant at the Southern Ocean in winter, with the detected proteins indicating that they had a major role in ‘dark’ (light-independent) carbon fixation at the surface.  In summer, by contrast, these autotrophic archaea were undetectable at the ocean surface, when photosynthesis by algae was the major route of carbon fixation.  SAR11 bacteria (Pelagibacter spp.) were prevalent in both winter and summer, and detected proteins indicate that ATP-dependent uptake was important for the acquisition of nutrients by these heterotrophs, including simple organic compounds such as amino acids and taurine.  Flavobacteria (especially Polaribacter) were more prevalent in summer, and the detected proteins show that these heterotrophic bacteria use exoenzymes to target complex biomolecules (polypeptides, polysaccharides) released from decaying algae.  Overall, metaproteomics of the Southern Ocean surface has allowed us to identify the similarities and differences between winter and summer microbial communities, as well as which particular nutrients are being targeted by individual groups of bacteria and archaea.

Event Date: 
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 19:00 - 20:00
Institution: 
MIT
Title: 

Relating the biogeography of nitrogen fixing phytoplankton and the nutrient environment in the ocean

Abstract: 

 

Nitrogen fixation may support as much as half of local productivity in some subtropical regions and is the major source of fixed nitrogen to the ocean, maintaining global productivity on long timescales. We use a combination of numerical models and ecological theory to interpret the relationship of nitrogen fixation and nutrient resources (fixed nitrogen, phosphorus and iron) in the global open ocean. We find that the ratio of the supply rates of iron and fixed nitrogen can accurately predict the biogeography of nitrogen fixers to the extent that it can be constrained by current observations.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 18:15 - 18:30
Institution: 
Macquarie University
Title: 

Making and breaking dimethylsulfide in salt marsh sediments

Abstract: 

DMSP (dimethylsulfoniopropionate) is a key organic compound in the sulfur cycle with ~10^9 tons of this anti-stress compatible solute being made each year by marine phytoplankton, macro-algae and some salt marsh plants. The DMSP that is liberated is catabolised in a series of different microbial reactions that comprise a massive set of biotransformations in the global sulfur cycle. Some of the reaction products, such as DMS (dimethylsulfide), have major environmental consequences in their own right, from climate regulation to animal behaviour. Our work investigates microbial populations that cycle DMSP and DMS in coastal intertidal sediments. Combining geochemical and molecular biological approaches, such as stable isotope probing (SIP) and targeted high throughput sequencing, we are identifying the main microbial players that catabolise DMSP and DMS in oxic and anoxic parts of intertidal sediments alongside the key genes and cognate biochemical pathways that contribute to the turnover of these influential molecules. Early work led to the observation of a vertical microbial population structure within the salt marsh sediment, partially linked to the sulfur cycle biochemistry of this ecosystem. SIP experiments are allowing the characterisation of active microbial processing of DMSP and DMS compounds by separate new bacterial groups, closely associated to salt marsh plants and within the oxic sediment layer. This work is filling in major gaps in our knowledge of the global organic S cycle and the role of microbial populations in major environmental biochemical processes.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
UNSW
Title: 

Metabolic methanisation of chloroform by a three component microbial community.

Abstract: 

Chloroform is a highly toxic organochlorine found in subsurface environments due to its poor handling and disposal techniques by industry. Bioremediation of organochlorine polluted environments is a well established technique that utilises dehalogenating bacteria to reductively dechlorinate organochlorines to their hydrocarbon counterpart. One drawback of bioremediation is that chloroform is inhibitory to this microbial process. A key to the advancement of the bioremediation industry is the discovery of dahalogenating bacteria capable of complete chloroform metabolism.

Here we report for the first time a microbial population capable of rapid metabolic transformation of chloroform at high concentrations (~50 ppm) to methane. Cultures were established with sediment sampled 4.5 m below ground surface from an aquifer polluted for over 40 years with a mixture of organochlorine compounds. A combination of functional data, pyrosequencing, quantitative PCR and the application of labelled substrates were used to elucidate the participating microbial community members. Members of the Dehalobacter genus were found to first dehalo-respire chloroform to dichloromethane which was then fermented to formate and acetate. A hydrogenotrophic syntroph (i.e. a methanogen) was then required to drive this process forward to methane.

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