Bridging the gap between ‘omics generated hypotheses and metabolic function of microorganisms in the environment.
Rapid advancements in environmental ‘omics approaches (e.g. metagenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) have provided a fresh perspective on the metabolic potential of uncultured microorganisms in nature. However, our ability to directly test hypotheses regarding the ecophysiology of microorganisms in their natural environment remains a challenge. New applications of whole cell fluorescence microscopy, stable isotope tracers and nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry (FISH-nanoSIMS), provide direct cell-specific isotopic, elemental and phylogenetic information on the metabolic roles of environmental microorganisms and microbial associations. This presentation will introduce the FISH-nanoSIMS method and highlight its utility for the field of microbial ecology through a case study of uncultured methane-consuming archaeal-bacterial symbioses in deep-sea sediments.