Monday, October 14, 2019

BacterioFiles 399 - Conductor Creating Carbon Canvases

Scanning probe microscope
image of graphene
By U.S. Army Material Command
CC BY 2.0
This episode: Bacteria can aide the production of the useful material graphene, using their ability to add electrons to external surfaces!

Download Episode (7.7 MB, 11.3 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Brevibacterium frigoritolerans

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Takeaways
Advanced materials often take advanced techniques to create, but they offer numerous benefits: increased strength and flexibility, smaller size, more options. One such material is graphene, which is basically a sheet of carbon atoms linked together like chainmail. It is only a single atom thick but is amazingly strong, mostly transparent, and good at conducting heat and electricity.

The trick is, it's hard to make in large quantities cheaply and easily. Sheets of carbons can be obtained from blocks of graphite, but these sheets are graphene oxide, which lack the desirable properties of graphene. Chemical methods can be used to remove the oxidation, but they are harsh and difficult. Luckily, bacteria are great at microscopic remodeling. In this study, electron-transferring bacteria are able to reduce the graphene oxide to graphene with properties almost as good as are achieved by chemical reduction.

Journal Paper:
Lehner BAE, Janssen VAEC, Spiesz EM, Benz D, Brouns SJJ, Meyer AS, van der Zant HSJ. 2019. Creation of Conductive Graphene Materials by Bacterial Reduction Using Shewanella oneidensis. ChemistryOpen 8:888–895.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

BacterioFiles 398 - Marathon Microbes Maximize Mileage

Veillonella parvula
Stand Genomic Sci 2(1): 57-65
This episode: Bacteria found in the guts of serious athletes help mice exercise longer by transforming their metabolic waste!

Download Episode (7.3 MB, 10.6 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Aggregatibacter (Actinobacillus) actinomycetemcomitans

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Takeaways
Our gut microbes affect many aspects of health, and many aspects of how we live affect our microbes. One such aspect is physical exertion, which has been associated with enrichment of various microbes in the guts of athletes. This observation led to the question: are these microbes just benefiting from the high levels of exertion, or are they able to contribute also?

This study found that certain such bacteria, when given to mice, enabled the mice to run for a longer period on a treadmill. These microbes break down lactic acid, which is generated in our bodies when we push our physical limits, but the study provided evidence that the longer run times were due not to removal of this waste product, but to the propionate compound produced by its degradation.

Journal Paper:
Scheiman J, Luber JM, Chavkin TA, MacDonald T, Tung A, Pham L-D, Wibowo MC, Wurth RC, Punthambaker S, Tierney BT, Yang Z, Hattab MW, Avila-Pacheco J, Clish CB, Lessard S, Church GM, Kostic AD. 2019. Meta-omics analysis of elite athletes identifies a performance-enhancing microbe that functions via lactate metabolism. Nat Med 25:1104–1109.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

BacterioFiles 397 - Plant Promotes Pathogen-Prohibiting Partner

Bacillus subtilis
By Y tambe, CCBY-SA 3.0
This episode: Plants stimulate their root bacteria to compete better, and these bacteria help the plants resist disease!

Download Episode (7.3 MB, 10.6 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Bacillus circulans

Takeaways
In some ways, plants' roots are like our gut. They both absorb nutrients, and they both have complex communities of microbes living alongside the host cells. These microbes can assist their hosts in various ways, and get fed in return.

In this study, one species of root bacterium is able to compete against others by producing an antimicrobial compound. The plant stimulates this production with chemical signals, and benefits from its symbionts' increased competitiveness because the bacterium helps the plant resist infection.

Journal Paper:
Ogran A, Yardeni EH, Keren-Paz A, Bucher T, Jain R, Gilhar O, Kolodkin-Gal I. 2019. The Plant Host Induces Antibiotic Production To Select the Most-Beneficial Colonizers. Appl Environ Microbiol 85:e00512-19.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

BacterioFiles 396 - Bacteria Boost Blood Bank Budgets

Red blood cells
This episode: Bacterial enzymes could convert donated blood to be compatible with more people in need!

Download Episode (8.0 MB, 11.7 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Cucumber leaf spot virus

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Takeaways
Blood transfusions using donated blood save many lives. Unfortunately, most donations can't be given to just anyone that needs blood; there must be a match in blood type between donor and recipient, or else a life-threatening reaction could occur in the recipient's body. So type A can't donate to type B, or vice versa, but type O is compatible with the other types.

In this study, bacterial enzymes found in human gut microbes have the ability to cleave off the unique type A and B sugars on the surface of red blood cells. This could allow the conversion of all donated blood to type O, greatly increasing the blood bank supply, but more testing is needed to develop the process.

Journal Paper:
Rahfeld P, Sim L, Moon H, Constantinescu I, Morgan-Lang C, Hallam SJ, Kizhakkedathu JN, Withers SG. 2019. An enzymatic pathway in the human gut microbiome that converts A to universal O type blood. Nat Microbiol 4:1475–1485.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

BacterioFiles 395 - Many Microbiome Mindsets

This episode: Five different ways of thinking about our relationship with our microbes!

Download Episode (20.4 MB, 29.8 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Tuhoko rubulavirus 3

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Takeaways
The microbiome by itself is an amazingly complicated community of many different species, with different lifestyles and metabolisms, all living together in competition and cooperation. On top of that, interactions between the microbiome and our body and our lifestyle multiply the complexity even more.

This article explores five different views of the microbiome and how it fits into our body (or how the body fits in with the microbiome). From the organ view to the ecosystem view, each is a different way of looking at the different functions, dynamic patterns, and integration of the microbiome in its host, and each provides guidance for how to approach treatment of disease and maintenance of health.

Journal Paper:
Morar N, Bohannan BJM. 2019. The Conceptual Ecology of the Human Microbiome. The Quarterly Review of Biology 94:149–175.

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Monday, September 2, 2019

Special episode, hurricanes, and more

Hey all, I've been working on a somewhat special episode that is taking me longer than usual, so I don't have anything for this week. It may be up next week, but it is unlikely due to Hurricane Dorian and/or family events. Look forward to it!

Monday, August 26, 2019

BacterioFiles 394 - Skinny Cell Structure Supports

Bacillus subtilisBy Y tambe, CC BY-SA 3.0
This episode: Not as simple as it sounds—how rod-shaped bacteria maintain their shape!

Thanks to Dr. Ethan Garner for his contribution!

Download Episode (6.3 MB, 9.2 minutes)

Show notes:
Microbe of the episode: Erwinia virus M7

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Takeaways
Microbes seem like they should be a lot simpler than large multicellular organisms, but even what seems like it should be a simple system in microbes can be surprisingly complex. In this case, the system bacteria maintaining their particular cell shape.

Spherical cells have it easier: just add more cell material at every point. But for rods, they must make the cell longer without making it wider. How do they accomplish this? Two groups of proteins work together to help rod-shaped species grow, but how they work wasn't specifically known.

In this study, it was found that one group of proteins adds more cell material as it moves around the circumference, while the other adds structure to the cell that allows it to maintain shape. The more of these structural proteins present, the thinner the cell can stay.

Journal Paper:
Dion MF, Kapoor M, Sun Y, Wilson S, Ryan J, Vigouroux A, van Teeffelen S, Oldenbourg R, Garner EC. 2019. Bacillus subtilis cell diameter is determined by the opposing actions of two distinct cell wall synthetic systems. Nat Microbiol 4:1294–1305.

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Check out BacterioFiles featured in Top 10 Microbiology Podcasts

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