General microbiology and science digest, October 28, 2014

Viruses in humans and caribous, metabolomics of losing weight, and microbes on rough surfaces.

Impact of a 6-week very low-calorie diet and weight reduction on the serum and fecal metabolome of overweight subjects – Mette S. Schmedes – European Food Research and Technology

“NMR-based metabolomics was carried out on serum and fecal samples obtained from healthy female subjects pre- and post-weight reduction. “

Book with lots of plagiarized text (in at least 3 chapters), so not worth the $25 for the physical book, or even the free download:
Metabonomics and Gut Microbiota in Nutrition and Disease – Springer Link


CheckM: assessing the quality of microbial genomes recovered from isolates, single cells, and metagenomes – Donovan H. Parks – PeerJ Preprints

“Here we introduce CheckM, an automated method for assessing the quality of a genome using a broader set of marker genes specific to the position of a genome within a reference genome tree along with information about the collocation of these genes. “

Viruses and phages

Expanding the Conversation on High-Throughput Virome Sequencing Standards To Include Consideration of Microbial Contamination Sources – Michael J. Strong, Zhen Lin, Erik K. Flemington – mBio

“We thank Ladner and colleagues for their conversation about standardizing viral genome sequences derived from high-throughput (HT) sequencing technology.”

Chlorovirus ATCV-1 is part of the human oropharyngeal virome and is associated with changes in cognitive functions in humans and mice – Robert H. Yolken – PNAS USA

“Unexpectedly, we identified DNA sequences homologous to virus ATCV-1, an algal virus not previously known to infect humans, in oropharyngeal samples obtained from healthy adults. “

* Preservation of viral genomes in 700-y-old caribou feces from a subarctic ice patch – Terry Fei Fan Ng – PNAS USA

“Using a viral particle-associated nucleic acid enrichment approach, we genetically characterized one complete DNA and one partial RNA viral genome from a 700-y-old fecal sample preserved in ice. “

Microbial Ecology

Trophic interactions induce spatial self-organization of microbial consortia on rough surfaces – Gang Wang, Dani Or – Scientific Reports

“A mechanistic model of cell-level interactions among multispecies microbial populations grown on hydrated rough surfaces facilitated systematic evaluation of how trophic dependencies shape spatial self-organization of microbial consortia in complex diffusion fields.”

Scaling laws governing stochastic growth and division of single bacterial cells – Srividya Iyer-Biswas – PNAS USA

“Now, by using a unique combination of measurement and analysis technologies, together with mathematical modeling, we discover quantitative features that are conserved across physiological conditions. “

Microbes in the news

Gut feelings – Microbiome and mental health – Fabio Piccini – Wall Street International

“Might people suffering from certain forms of mental health problems benefit from a fecal transplant from someone with more happy-go-lucky bacteria? “

Small Things Considered: Bacteria Allow Woodrats to Eat Poison – Anne A. Madden – ASM blog

“Despite such dire consequences, woodrats ingest enough of these plant toxins to kill a lab rat. Every day. But the desert is not littered with woodrat corpses, so clearly they are able to detoxify this poisonous salad somehow. “

Saving The Bees Using Microscopic Bugs – RedOrbit

“Phages are the most abundant life form on the planet and each phage has a unique bacteria that it will attack,” said Sandra Burnett, BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology. “This makes phage an ideal treatment for bacterial disease because it can target specific bacteria while leaving all other cells alone.”

Science, publishing, and career

Reputation and impact in academic careers – Alexander Michael Petersen – PNAS USA

“Here, we develop a framework for quantifying the influence author reputation has on a publication’s future impact.”

NPRs All Things Considered (Podcast, 5 min): Is ‘Leaning In’ The Only Formula For Women’s Success In Science? – Kelly McEvers – NPR

“Don’t wait to be invited or encouraged to make a career in science, engineering or technology, Frances Arnold advises the young women she teaches at the California Institute of Technology. “

Bik’s Picks

Doctors Making Housecalls: Better, Cheaper Care at Home? – Jennifer Ferris – MedPageToday

“In a little over a decade the practice has exploded in popularity — with Taavoni and more than 40 other providers in North Carolina innovating new ways to bring healthcare home.”

Oil platforms off California are among the most productive marine fish habitats globally –
Jeremy T. Claisse – PNAS USA

“Here, we find that fish communities living on the complex hardscape habitat created throughout the water column by the structure of oil and gas platforms off California have the highest secondary production per unit area of seafloor of any marine ecosystem for which similar estimates exist.”

Can Science Perfect Food? – Daniela Galarza –

“A research team in Japan is blowing past molecular gastronomy to discover new ways of perfecting already flawless dishes.”


General microbiology and science, September 29, 2014

Metabolomics, metagenomics, OTU binning, DNA extraction for metagenomics, RNAseq, life without water, microbes and art, and Bik’s Picks.


A Peptide-Based Method for 13C Metabolic Flux Analysis in Microbial Communities – Amit Ghosh – PLOS Computational Biology

“Here we propose a new type of 13C MFA that infers fluxes based on peptide labeling, instead of amino acid labeling. “

Metabolic fingerprint of dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2) in microbial-mammalian co-metabolism – Xuan He and Carolyn Marie Slupsky – Journal of Proteome Research

“Here, we review a metabolic pathway that integrates the microbial catabolism of methionine with mammalian metabolism of methanethiol (MT), dimethyl sulfide (DMS) and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)”


Metagenomic epidemiology: a new frontier – Stephen S Francis, Lee W Riley – Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

“In this commentary we hope to briefly summarise studies into the bacterial and viral microbiome and how this shifting paradigm affects epidemiology.“

Phages and viruses

Viral attack exacerbates the susceptibility of a bloom-forming alga to ocean acidification – Shanwen Chen – Global Change Biology

“..when the harmful bloom alga Phaeocystis globosa is infected with viruses under future ocean conditions, its photosynthetic performance further decreased and cells became more susceptible to stressful light levels..”

Ecology / Bioinformatics

Limits to robustness and reproducibility in the demarcation of operational taxonomic units – Thomas S. B. Schmidt – Environmental Microbiology

“Using a global data set of 887 870 bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences, we objectively quantified biases introduced by several widely employed sequence clustering algorithms. “


* DNA extraction protocols cause differences in 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing efficiency but not in community profile composition or structure – Benjamin E. R. Rubin – MicrobiologyOpen

“While bacterial community composition recovered using Illumina 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing was not detectably biased by any method, the quantity of bacterial DNA varied drastically, reducing the number of samples that could be amplified and sequenced. “

Protocols for metagenomic DNA extraction and Illumina amplicon library preparation for faecal and swab samples – A.-T. E. Vo1 and J. A. Jedlicka – Molecular Ecology Resources

“We developed and tested a novel metagenomic DNA extraction approach using solid phase reversible immobilization (SPRI) beads on Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) samples stored in RNAlater.”

Caught in the act: RNA-Seq provides novel insights into mRNA degradation – Jan Gerwig and Jörg Stülke – Molecular Microbiology

“In MolecularMicrobiology, Liu et al. (2014) have analysed RNA processing by polynucleotide phosphorylase, the major 3′–5′ exonuclease in Bacillus subtilis.”

3D genome reconstruction from chromosomal contacts – Annick Lesne – Nature Methods

“We propose a two-step algorithm, ShRec3D, and assess its accuracy using both in silico data and human genome-wide 3C (Hi-C) data.”

More microbiology

Multiplication of microbes below 0.690 water activity: implications for terrestrial and extraterrestrial life – Andrew Stevenson – Environmental Microbiology

“We discuss water activity in relation to the limits of Earth’s present-day biosphere; the possibility of microbial multiplication by utilizing water from thin, aqueous films or non-liquid sources;”

Microbes in the News

Scientists sniffing out the Western allergy epidemic – BBC News

“Both families gamely agreed to provide bacterial swabs of their skin, guts and even their homes in the hope they might offer clues about why they suffer from allergies.”

Study looks at bacteria on a plane – CNN Wire

“A study by Auburn University looked at how long two potentially deadly bacteria, e-coli and MRSA, can live on airline surfaces. They checked things like toilet handles, tray tables and seat pockets.”

Bacteria in wine may bring health benefits – LiveScience – Agata Blaszczak Boxe

“In the study, researchers in Spain isolated 11 strains of bacteria from wine, including strains of Lactobacillus, which are also found in yogurt, as well as Oenococcus and Pediococcus bacteria, which are associated with the wine-making process.”

A gut feeling: Bacteria like that found in yoghurt may have helped shape our personalities and made us who we are – Alex Finnis – Daily Mail UK

“Bacteria in our stomachs can affect our brain chemistry, scientists have discovered – which means eating yoghurt could help us be happier.

Science and Art

Should Silicon Valley Hire Microbes? – Glenn McDonald – Discovery

“It’s an art installation slated to launch October 21 at San Francisco’s Modernism Gallery. The event will feature the official certification of approximately 100 billion bacteria in areas including product development and finance. “

Octopus bacteria lights up this installation – Liat Clark – Wired UK

“A designer has harvested bacteria from an octopus to create a bioluminescent installation that lights up when it is moved.”

Photographer Immerses His Film in Live Bacteria for Years to Create Unique Portraits – Gannon Burgett – PetaPixel

“Over the course of a few weeks, months or years, the microbes destabilize and eat away at the silver halide particles in the emulsion.”

Bik’s Picks

Dolphins are attracted to magnets: Add dolphins to the list of magnetosensitive animals, French researchers say – Science Daily

“Dolphins are indeed sensitive to magnetic stimuli, as they behave differently when swimming near magnetized objects.”

Science explains why volcanoes are erupting all over the place right now – Robin Wylie – Washington Post

“The Earth seems to have been smoking a lot recently. Volcanoes are erupting in Iceland, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ecuador and Mexico right now. “

Scientists find tiny, poisonous new mystery frog – Andrew Griffin – Independent

“Scientists have discovered a new species of poison dart frog, small enough to fit on a fingernail but still bearing the toxic poison that gives the frogs their name.”