JAMS January 2013 Report

Tom Jeffries
January JAMS got the new year off to a good start with a solid turnout and some stimulating talks. First up was Olivier Laczka who took us in to the technical realm of biosensors. Olivier’s work has focused on developing cost-effective tools for the rapid identification of micro-organisms relevant to industry and has led to several Patents.

He showed us an example of a microfluidic device coupling electro-magnetic capture and electrical detection.  The applicability of this tool was demonstrated In Situ with Escherichia coli cells evidencing a linear response for concentrations ranging 10^2–10^8 cells per mL. This talk highlighted the potential for combining biology, chemistry and physics to detect organisms in the environment (and maybe even make some cash?). Next up we dirtied our hands in the world of soil microbes with a talk by Sara Hortal who discussed microbial community shifts related to changing flora along a chronosequence. Community composition, as assessed using molecular techniques, correlated with the size and age of plants in the canopy. Shifts were observed in major groups including  BacteroidetesBetaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria  and Firmicutes highlighting the importance of  microbe-plant-soil interactions on ecosystem function and biogeography. The final talk took us to the cold waters of the Antarctic, where Tim Williams told us about the application of metaproteomics to understanding the functional capability and response of microbial communities to seasonal shifts in habitat. These tools revealed that ammonia-oxidising archaea were dominant at the Southern Ocean in winter and played a major in "dark" carbon fixation. In summer however, these organisms were not abundant with photosynthesis being mediated by algae. Our good friend SAR11 (Pelagibacter spp.) were prevalent in both winter and summer, and detected proteins indicate that ATP-dependent uptake was important for the acquisition of nutrients including simple organic compounds such as amino acids and taurine (RedBull gives you wings….). Tim’s talk highlighted the usefulness of meta-proteomics and led to a lively discussion about omics technologies and the role they play in understanding microbial communities.