Environment

Event Date: 
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
UNSW
Title: 

Insights into the stress response of the biomining bacterium Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans using gene expression and proteomic analysis

Abstract: 

Bioleaching is a simple and effective process used for metal extraction from low grade ores and mineral concentrates using microorganisms. The extraction of some metals such as copper from low grade ore is becoming necessary because of gradual depletion of high grade ore. The traditional methods used for extraction of copper are either Pyrometallurgy or Hydrometallurgy. However both the methods are not environmental friendly. There are many techniques proposed to extract metals but these are not practically suitable, as these requires a very high energy input as well as most of them creates environmental pollution problem, that also rises the cost of environmental protection throughout the world. Therefore, bioleaching is recognizable as the most environmentally friendly method of separating metals since it requires less energy and it reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses released to the atmosphere. Bioleaching is also a fairly simple process that does not require a lot of expertise to operate or complicated machinery.
The most commonly used bacterium in bioleaching is Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans (former Thiobacillus ferrooxidans) and this is due to its capacity to oxidize metal sulphides. A. ferroxidans is a chemolithotrophic bacterium capable of utilizing ferrous iron or reduced sulphur compounds as the sole source of energy for its growth. It thrives optimally around pH 2.0 and 30ºC. During Bioleaching process, A. ferrooxidans is often subject to changes in the ideal growth pH and temperature, and to nutrients starvation. These changes can affect the bacterial physiology and as a consequence, the efficiency of bioleaching. Then, the stress response of this bacterium subject to heat stress and phosphate starvation has been investigated using different approaches, namely, gene expression and proteomic analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), as well as morphological analysis by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
The results showed that under the tested stress conditions A. ferrooxidans cells suffer elongation, a common stress response in bacteria. Alterations in carbohydrates, phospholipids and phosphoproteins were detected by FT-IR. By proteomic analyses (2-DE and tandem mass spectrometry), many differentially expressed protein spots were visualized and identified as proteins belonging to 11 different functional categories. Indeed, the up-regulated proteins were mainly from the protein fate category. Real time quantitative PCR was employed to analyze changes in the expression patterns of heat shock genes, as well as many other genes encoding proteins related to several functional categories in A. ferrooxidans. Cells were submitted to long-term growth and to heat shock, both at 40°C. The results evidenced that heat shock affected the expression levels of most genes while long-term growth at 40°C caused minimal changes in gene expression patterns – with exception of some iron transport related genes, which were strongly down-regulated. Further bioinformatic analysis indicated a putative transcriptional regulation, by the σ32 factor, in most heat-affected genes. These results evidence that A. ferrooxidans has an efficient range of stress-responses, which explains its ability for biotechnological purposes.
 

Event Date: 
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 19:15 - 20:00
Institution: 
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore / UNSW
Title: 

The Great Escape: Biofilm formation and dispersal

Abstract: 

Bacteria form biofilms on almost all surfaces, ranging from ship hulls to cooling towers, to indwelling biomedical devices.  Biofilms also play positive roles, for example, floc and granule formation for the biological remediation of contaminated water.  Therefore, there is strong drive to understand the processes of biofilm formation, to either eliminate biofilm formation in some industrial processes and human health, or to encourage their formation, for processes such as remediation.  To develop innovative, environmentally friendly, biofilm control technologies, it is essential to understand the process of biofilm formation and how bacteria control the process of dispersal. 
Bacteria rapidly respond to changes in nutrient conditions, and we have shown that depletion of nutrients, e.g. carbon limitation or nitrogen, can lead to dispersal of bacterial biofilms.  This process is mediated via an intracellular second messenger cascade, using cAMP and c-di-GMP and may also be linked to other physiological signals such as nitric oxide mediated dispersal. 
We have also shown that biofilm development and dispersal is dependent on a prophage carried by Pseudomonas aeruginosa.  The phage plays an important role in multiple aspects of biofilm development and stability and we are beginning to unravel the mechanisms result in phage conversion which ultimately are linked to biofilm development.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 18:30 - 19:00
Institution: 
CSIRO Livestock Industries, St. Lucia, Australia
Title: 

Differences downunder: macropodids, methane and metagenomics.

Abstract: 

The agricultural sector accounts for a large amount of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and strategies that reduce the production and (or) release of methane from ruminant livestock has resurfaced as a viable research topic. While there has been a relatively intense focus on better understanding how rumen microbiology, nutrition and (or) animal genetics might be targeted and productively altered to reduce these emissions; less attention has been directed towards the comparative study of those native Australian herbivores thought to produce small amounts of methane during feed digestion. These animals include the Australian macropodids (kangaroos and wallabies), which have evolved to retain a foregut microbiota that effectively converts plant biomass into nutrients for the host animal; and appears to do so with much less methane emitted. Our research group in Brisbane has used metagenomics approaches with a view to characterize the foregut microbiota of the Tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). There is a reduced number of methanogenic archaea resident in the macropodid foregut compared to ruminants, but the species present appear to have some unique attributes relative to their counterparts from other environments. We have also used a combination of metagenomic data and cultivation-based methods to identify and isolate several “new” bacteria that support feed digestion and fermentation schemes consistent with a low methane emitting phenotype. The structure-function relationships inherent to these interesting gut microbiomes warrant further investigation.

Metagenomics has been a hot topic at JAMS in 2011. Playing to this popular theme, Thomas Jeffries of the University of Technology, Sydney opened the final meeting for the year with his metagenomic analysis of taxonomic and functional patterns in South Australia's hypersaline Coorong Lagoon. Thomas and colleagues found shifts in the abundance of cyanobacteria and Archaea linked to a salinity and nutrient gradient along the lagoon, as well as a shift in the abundance of genes related to salinity tolerance and photosynthesis. Surprisingly, despite the extreme range of environmental factors within Coorong, they found these patterns were dwarfed when the lagoon samples were placed in a global context, which showed substrate - in this case, solid or fluid - had a greater influence on taxonomic profiles. Thomas's work shows the importance of scale in the relationship between a microbial community and its environment.

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