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October- 2021

   

Plastic-eating bacteria could help aid global recycling efforts

           Bacteria which have been shown to degrade and assimilate plastic, has been a key area of international research since 2016. Now a University of Manchester-based team of scientists have made a biotechnological breakthrough which may help humans to call on engineered bacteria cells to reduce our plastic waste.

Source: Phys

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Shedding light on microbial communities in deep aquifers

           Underground in peridotite aquifers, the rock can interact with water to produce hydrogen, which microbes can use to power their cells, research suggests. Yet much of the research on these water-rock interactions has been conducted using water samples collected from open wells or seeps that may have been contaminated by exposure to the atmosphere.

Source: Phys

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How a bacterium may help solve the plastic pollution crisis

           Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. The accumulation of petroleum-based plastics is having devastating effects on our environment, wildlife and human health. In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Nara Institute of Science and Technology revealed a bacterium that is not only able to degrade difficult-to-recycle petroleum-based plastics but can also sustainably produce more environmentally friendly biodegradable plastics.

Source: Phys

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Using bacterial cocktails to fight infections

           Most people have already experienced first-hand how important a healthy microbiome is when they had to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Unfortunately, the drug does not only destroy the pathogens. It also affects the 'good' bacteria in the bowel that otherwise occupy the most important niches and help fend off pathogens. This protective mechanism is called colonization resistance. But which bacterial species are 'good', or 'commensal' in technical terms, and how can they protect against colonization, i.e. how can they prevent pathogens from settling? Prof. Till Strowig, HZI, and Prof. Bärbel Stecher, LMU München, decided to take a closer look at these questions.

Source: Phys

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September- 2021

   

Defense system protects African salmonella from attack by viruses

           Scientists at the University of Liverpool and Harvard Medical School have discovered a new defense mechanism that makes a lethal strain of Salmonella resistant to viral infection. The findings, published in Cell Host & Microbe, shed new light on the survival strategies of Salmonella Typhimurium ST313, which causes thousands of deaths each year in sub-Saharan Africa.

Source: Phys

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Microbial 'theft' enables breakdown of methane, toxic methylmercury

           A team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Michigan have discovered that certain bacteria can steal an essential compound from other microbes to break down methane and toxic methylmercury in the environment. The findings could inform strategies that aim to manipulate these microorganisms to reduce emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and detoxify methylmercury, a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in the food supply.

Source: Phys

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Microplastics do not contribute to the mobility of organic pollutants in agricultural soils

           In agriculture, large quantities of nano- and microplastics end up in the soil through compost, sewage sludge and the use of mulching foils. The plastic particles always carry various pollutants with them. However, they do not transport them into the groundwater, as is often assumed. Environmental geoscientists led by Thilo Hofmann have now determined that the plastic particles release the pollutants in the upper soil layers: they do not generally contaminate the groundwater, but have a negative effect on soil microbes and crops. The study by the University of Vienna appears in Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

Source: Phys

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Wired for efficiency: How methanogenic microbes manage electrons

           Methanogenic archaea use sophisticated enzyme systems to live in energy-limited anoxic environments. A key mechanism for saving energy is electron bifurcation, a reaction that 'splits' the energy of a pair of electrons, making one more strongly reducing at the expense of the other. Researchers from the Max Planck Institutes for Terrestrial Microbiology (Marburg) and Biophysics (Frankfurt am Main) have discovered a massive enzyme complex from a methanogenic archaeon that directly transfers electrons from the electron bifurcation reaction to CO2 reduction and fixation. Their detailed insights into these efficient energy-transforming processes may open new possibilities for sustainable biotechnological development.

Source: Phys

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August- 2021

   

From jet fuel to clothes, microbes can help us recycle carbon dioxide into everyday products

           The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released earlier this month sounded a "code red for humanity." At such a crucial time, we should draw on all possible solutions to combating global warming.

Source: Phys

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Measuring electric current in soil could provide answers on soil health

           The team used a probe originally developed to measure the electrochemical signal of microbes in aquatic environments, and tested it on healthy and unhealthy soil samples to measure microbial metabolism and other indicators of soil health. This proof-of-concept research, published in Journal of The Electrochemical Society, could someday lead to a simple, real-time test for farmers to determine whether soil is productive.

Source: Phys

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Concrete and the hard-core bacteria that stubbornly persist within

           It's a most unlikely habitat and really has no creature comforts to recommend it. But University of Delaware researcher Julie Maresca and students in her lab are studying concrete and the life that stubbornly persists within.

Source: Phys

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Lake Huron sinkhole surprise: The rise of oxygen on early Earth linked to changing planetary rotation rate

           The rise of oxygen levels early in Earth's history paved the way for the spectacular diversity of animal life. But for decades, scientists have struggled to explain the factors that controlled this gradual and stepwise process, which unfolded over nearly 2 billion years.

Source: Phys

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July- 2021

   

Microbes can produce food, fuel and medicine: Math can make them even more useful

           Humans have harnessed the power of microbes for centuries, for example using yeast to make bread, beer, yogurt and wine via fermentation. These living organisms are useful to us because they perform chemical reactions as part of their everyday life.

Source: Phys

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Plastic accumulation in food may be underestimated

           A new study has found plastic accumulation in foods may be underestimated. There is also concern these microplastics will carry potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli, which are commonly found in coastal waters, up the food chain.

Source: Phys

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Bacteria navigate on surfaces using a 'sense of touch'

           Many disease-causing bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa crawl on surfaces through a walk-like motility known as "twitching." Nanometers-wide filaments called type IV pili are known to power twitching, but scientists ignore which sensory signals coordinate the microbes' movements.

Source: Phys

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Symbionts sans frontieres: Bacterial partners travel the world

           This pandemic year has restricted international travel for humans. Not so for some microscopic bacteria in the ocean: They partner up with clams living in the sand beneath the shimmering waters of coastal habitats throughout the globe. According to research by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and the University of Vienna now published in PNAS, the bacterial symbionts living in lucinid gills travel the world without borders.

Source: Phys

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June- 2021

   

DNA barcodes decode the world of soil nematodes

           The research team of Professor Toshihiko Eki of the Department of Applied Chemistry and Life Science (and Research Center for Agrotechnology and Biotechnology), Toyohashi University of Technology used a next-generation sequencer to develop a highly efficient method to analyze soil nematodes by using the 18S ribosomal RNA gene regions as DNA barcodes.

Source: Phys

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Fungal infections worldwide are becoming resistant to drugs and more deadly

           But this fascinating and beautiful group of microbes has offered the world more than just foods like edible mushrooms. Fungi are also a source of antibiotics—for example, penicillin from Penicillium—as well as the yeasts and other fermentation agents that make bread rise, give cheese its flavor and put the alcohol in wine and beer.

Source: Phys

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Researchers identify microbe that protects bees from fungal infections

           Honey bees are the most economically important agricultural pollinators on Earth, but their populations have been in decline for decades. At Indiana University, researchers are investigating how to use the honey bee's natural microbiome to keep them healthy, which has implications for food security and the agricultural industry.

Source: Phys

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How do plants balance microbial friends and foes?

           Plants are constantly exposed to microbes: Pathogens that cause disease, commensals that cause no harm or benefit, and mutualists that promote plant growth or help fend off pathogens. For example, most land plants can form positive relationships with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to improve nutrient uptake. How plants fight off pathogens without also killing beneficial microbes or wasting energy on commensal microbes is a largely unanswered question.

Source: Phys

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May- 2021

   

How metals work together to weaken hardy nitrogen-nitrogen bonds

           Nitrogen, an element that is essential for all living cells, makes up about 78 percent of Earth's atmosphere. However, most organisms cannot make use of this nitrogen until it is converted into ammonia. Until humans invented industrial processes for ammonia synthesis, almost all ammonia on the planet was generated by microbes using nitrogenases, the only enzymes that can break the nitrogen-nitrogen bond found in gaseous dinitrogen, or N2.

Source: Phys

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Newly discovered enzymes are not heavy metal fans

           Carbonic anhydrases are essential enzymes that are present in virtually all living things; all eight classes of carbonic anhydrases that have been identified to date need a metal ion to function. But now, researchers from Japan have discovered that metal is not crucial for all carbonic anhydrases.

Source: Phys

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Research reveals ancient people had more diverse gut microorganisms

           Just ask Dr. Meradeth Snow, a University of Montana researcher and co-chair of UM's Department of Anthropology. She is part of an international team, led by the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Joslin Diabetes Center, that used human "paleofeces" to discover that ancient people had far different microorganisms living in their guts than we do in modern times.

Source: Phys

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Mapping citrus microbiomes: The first step to finding plant-microbiome treasures

           Due to their complexity and microscopic scale, plant-microbe interactions can be quite elusive. Each researcher focuses on a piece of the interaction, and it is hard to find all the pieces let alone assemble them into a comprehensive map to find the hidden treasures within the plant microbiome. This is the purpose of review, to take all the pieces from all the different sources and put them together into something comprehensive that can guide researchers to hidden clues and new associations that unlock the secrets of a system. Like any good treasure map, there are still gaps in the knowledge and the searcher must be clever enough to fill in those gaps to find the 'X.' Without a map, there is only aimless wandering, but with a map, there is hope of finding the hidden treasures of the plant microbiome.

Source: Phys

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April- 2021

   

Soil bacteria evolve with climate change

           While evolution is normally thought of as occurring over millions of years, researchers at the University of California, Irvine have discovered that bacteria can evolve in response to climate change in 18 months. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, biologists from UCI found that evolution is one way that soil microbes might deal with global warming.

Source: Phys

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Using microbes to remove microplastics from the environment

           The method uses bacterial biofilms, a sticky substance created by micro-organisms, to trap microplastic particles. The biofilm is then processed and dispersed, releasing the microplastic particles for processing and recycling.

Source: Phys

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As plant/animal diversity wanes, is microbial life changing too? A perilously 'profound ignorance'

           Alarms about the declining diversity of plants and animals raise a related concern with equally profound implications: Is the variety of microbial life, including viruses, changing too? And if so, in which direction and how fast?.

Source: Phys

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A safer way to deploy bacteria as environmental sensors

           In recent years, scientists have developed many strains of engineered bacteria that can be used as sensors to detect environmental contaminants such as heavy metals. If deployed in the natural environment, these sensors could help scientists track how pollutant levels change over time, over a wide geographic area.

Source: Phys

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March- 2021

   

Microbial consumption of mineral nitrogen promotes HONO emissions in agricultural soils

           A new study indicates that microbial nitrate reduction is an important nitrous acid (HONO) production pathway in aerobic soils. This suggests that the terrestrial ecosystems favoring it could be hotspots for HONO emissions, thereby influencing atmospheric chemistry. The study was published in March in Communications Earth and Environment.

Source: Phys

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Atomic techniques reveal the evolution of a bacterial protein

           A combination of an array of atomic-level techniques has allowed researchers to show how changes in an environment-sensing protein enable bacteria to survive in different habitats, from the human gut to deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

Source: Phys

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Three bacterial strains discovered on space station may help grow plants on Mars

           In order to withstand the rigors of space on deep-space missions, food grown outside of Earth needs a little extra help from bacteria. Now, a recent discovery aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has researchers may help create the 'fuel' to help plants withstand such stressful situations.

Source: Phys

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Flexible 'slinkies' form in DNA of archaea

           Microbes called archaea package their genetic material into flexible shapes that flop open in unusual ways, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator Karolin Luger reports March 2, 2021, in the journal eLife. "Very much to our surprise, we found that these structures can undergo all sorts of gymnastics," says Luger, a biochemist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Source: Phys

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February- 2021

   

Microbes deep beneath seafloor survive on byproducts of radioactive process

           A team of researchers from the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography and their collaborators have revealed that the abundant microbes living in ancient sediment below the seafloor are sustained primarily by chemicals created by the natural irradiation of water molecules.

Source: Phys

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Sweet marine particles resist hungry bacteria

           A major pathway for carbon sequestration in the ocean is the growth, aggregation and sinking of phytoplankton—unicellular microalgae like diatoms. Just like plants on land, phytoplankton sequester carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide. When algae cells aggregate, they sink and take the sequestered carbon with them to the ocean floor. This so called biological carbon pump accounts for about 70 per cent of the annual global carbon export to the deep ocean. Estimated 25 to 40 per cent of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning emitted by humans may have been transported by this process from the atmosphere to depths below 1000 meter, where carbon can be stored for millennia.

Source: Phys

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Microbes could pose health, ecosystem risks when rain brings them to Earth

           Human health and ecosystems could be affected by microbes including cyanobacteria and algae that hitch rides in clouds and enter soil, lakes, oceans and other environments when it rains, according to a Rutgers co-authored study.

Source: Phys

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Rebuilding soil microbiomes in high-tunnel agricultural systems focus of study

           The presence of high salt and nitrogen concentrations in high-tunnel soils may make it more challenging to rebuild a healthy soil microbiome following a soil-clearing event, according to microbial ecologists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Source: Phys

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January- 2021

   

Marine viruses: The tiny microbe killers that orchestrate life in the ocean

           The sea is full of microorganisms. Smaller than one millimeter and often composed of a single cell, they come in every shape and size imaginable, from bacteria and microalgae to protozoa. But there are also viruses—incomplete entities that need a host to replicate, and so survive.

Source: Phys

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Carbon-chomping soil bacteria may pose hidden climate risk

            Much of the earth's carbon is trapped in soil, and scientists have assumed that potential climate-warming compounds would safely stay there for centuries. But new research from Princeton University shows that carbon molecules can potentially escape the soil much faster than previously thought. The findings suggest a key role for some types of soil bacteria, which can produce enzymes that break down large carbon-based molecules and allow carbon dioxide to escape into the air.

Source: Phys

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New method helps pocket-sized DNA sequencer achieve near-perfect accuracy

            Researchers have found a simple way to eliminate almost all sequencing errors produced by a widely used portable DNA sequencer, potentially enabling scientists working outside the lab to study and track microorganisms like the SARS-CoV-2 virus more efficiently.

Source: Phys

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Scientists discover slimy microbes that may help keep coral reefs healthy

            Corals have evolved over millennia to live, and even thrive, in waters with few nutrients. In healthy reefs, the water is often exceptionally clear, mainly because corals have found ways to make optimal use of the few resources around them. Any change to these conditions can throw a coral's health off balance.

Source: Phys

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