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Understanding the structure and function of microbes involved in cycling of trace gases in the environment

Date: 
Monday 10th November 2014 - 14:00 to 15:00
Venue: 
INI Seminar Room 1
Abstract: 
My research over the last 30 years has centred around the physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics and ecology of bacteria that grow on one carbon compounds such as methane, methanol, methylated amines and dimethyl sulphide (methylotrophs). A particular focus has been on the physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology of methane oxidising bacteria (methanotrophs) and their role in carbon cycling in the environment. One of the major challenges in microbial ecology is to define "who does what" in the environment; ie which groups of microbes are carrying out specific processes in the environment. We developed the technique of DNA Stable Isotope Probing (SIP) to define the structure and function of microbes in studies on the methane cycle. SIP allows the capture of specific information from key groups of microbes in the environment that are carrying out a specific process. $^1$$^3$C- labelled substrate is incorporated into cell material of the active microbial community involved in a specific process in environmental samples, eg methane oxidation. This $^1$$^3$C-labelled material can be separated from non-labelled ($^1$$^2$C) cell components from all other non- utilizers or "dormant" methane oxidizers. $^1$$^3$C-labelled RNA provides phylogenetic information on active cells and $^1$$^3$C-labelled DNA yields information on key functional genes encoding key steps in biogeochemical processes eg methane monooxygenase. These techniques help us to define the function of microbes involved in key biogeochemical cycles. DNA-SIP can be used in gene mining studies and has the additional advantage of allowing access to the genomes of whole communities of microbes carrying out a specific process in the environment. Targeted metagenomics, focusing down on key processes in the environment, will provide substantial information on major physiological groups of organisms involved in cycling of trace gases such as methane, dimethylsulfide and isoprene and volatile organic compounds such as methanol in the marine and terrestrial environment.

Lab: www.jcmurrell.co.uk The Earth & Life Systems Alliance:www.elsa.co.uk
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University of Cambridge Research Councils UK
    Clay Mathematics Institute London Mathematical Society NM Rothschild and Sons