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  • We seek to understand

    the role of microorganisms in Earth's nutrient cycles

    and as symbionts of other organisms

  • Cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur

    affect the health of our planet

  • The human microbiome -

    Our own social network of microbial friends

  • Ancient invaders -

    Bacterial symbionts of amoebae

    and the evolution of the intracellular lifestyle

  • Marine symbioses:

    Listening in on conversations

    between animals and the microbes they can't live without

  • Single cell techniques offer new insights

    into the ecology of microbes

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Dome News

Latest publications

Widespread soil bacterium that oxidizes atmospheric methane

The global atmospheric level of methane (CH4), the second most important greenhouse gas, is currently increasing by ∼10 million tons per year. Microbial oxidation in unsaturated soils is the only known biological process that removes CH4 from the atmosphere, but so far, bacteria that can grow on atmospheric CH4 have eluded all cultivation efforts. In this study, we have isolated a pure culture of a bacterium, strain MG08 that grows on air at atmospheric concentrations of CH4 [1.86 parts per million volume (p.p.m.v.)]. This organism, named Methylocapsa gorgona, is globally distributed in soils and closely related to uncultured members of the upland soil cluster α. CH4 oxidation experiments and 13C-single cell isotope analyses demonstrated that it oxidizes atmospheric CH4 aerobically and assimilates carbon from both CH4 and CO2. Its estimated specific affinity for CH4 (a0s) is the highest for any cultivated methanotroph. However, growth on ambient air was also confirmed for Methylocapsa acidiphila and Methylocapsa aurea, close relatives with a lower specific affinity for CH4, suggesting that the ability to utilize atmospheric CH4 for growth is more widespread than previously believed. The closed genome of M. gorgona MG08 encodes a single particulate methane monooxygenase, the serine cycle for assimilation of carbon from CH4 and CO2, and CO2 fixation via the recently postulated reductive glycine pathway. It also fixes dinitrogen and expresses the genes for a high-affinity hydrogenase and carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, suggesting that atmospheric CH4 oxidizers harvest additional energy from oxidation of the atmospheric trace gases carbon monoxide (0.2 p.p.m.v.) and hydrogen (0.5 p.p.m.v.).

Tveit A, Hestnes AG, Robinson SL, Schintlmeister A, Dedysh SN, Jehmlich N, von Bergen M, Herbold C, Wagner M, Richter A, Svenning MM
2019 - Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., in press

An automated Raman-based platform for the sorting of live cells by functional properties.

Stable-isotope probing is widely used to study the function of microbial taxa in their natural environment, but sorting of isotopically labelled microbial cells from complex samples for subsequent genomic analysis or cultivation is still in its early infancy. Here, we introduce an optofluidic platform for automated sorting of stable-isotope-probing-labelled microbial cells, combining microfluidics, optical tweezing and Raman microspectroscopy, which yields live cells suitable for subsequent single-cell genomics, mini-metagenomics or cultivation. We describe the design and optimization of this Raman-activated cell-sorting approach, illustrate its operation with four model bacteria (two intestinal, one soil and one marine) and demonstrate its high sorting accuracy (98.3 ± 1.7%), throughput (200-500 cells h; 3.3-8.3 cells min) and compatibility with cultivation. Application of this sorting approach for the metagenomic characterization of bacteria involved in mucin degradation in the mouse colon revealed a diverse consortium of bacteria, including several members of the underexplored family Muribaculaceae, highlighting both the complexity of this niche and the potential of Raman-activated cell sorting for identifying key players in targeted processes.

Lee KS, Palatinszky M, Pereira FC, Nguyen J, Fernandez VI, Mueller AJ, Menolascina F, Daims H, Berry D, Wagner M, Stocker R
2019 - Nat Microbiol, in press

Resolving the individual contribution of key microbial populations to enhanced biological phosphorus removal with Raman-FISH.

Enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) is a globally important biotechnological process and relies on the massive accumulation of phosphate within special microorganisms. Candidatus Accumulibacter conform to the classical physiology model for polyphosphate accumulating organisms and are widely believed to be the most important player for the process in full-scale EBPR systems. However, it was impossible till now to quantify the contribution of specific microbial clades to EBPR. In this study, we have developed a new tool to directly link the identity of microbial cells to the absolute quantification of intracellular poly-P and other polymers under in situ conditions, and applied it to eight full-scale EBPR plants. Besides Ca. Accumulibacter, members of the genus Tetrasphaera were found to be important microbes for P accumulation, and in six plants they were the most important. As these Tetrasphaera cells did not exhibit the classical phenotype of poly-P accumulating microbes, our entire understanding of the microbiology of the EBPR process has to be revised. Furthermore, our new single-cell approach can now also be applied to quantify storage polymer dynamics in individual populations in situ in other ecosystems and might become a valuable tool for many environmental microbiologists.

Fernando EY, McIlroy SJ, Nierychlo M, Herbst FA, Petriglieri F, Schmid MC, Wagner M, Nielsen JL, Nielsen PH
2019 - ISME J, in press

Lecture series

Viral Intrahost Evolution – a Race in Space and Time

Andreas Bergthaler
CeMM, Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
06.06.2019
12:00 h
Lecture Hall 2, UZA 1, Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien