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Interesting facts about Microorganisms

December - 2020

Groups of bacteria can work together to better protect crops and improve their growth

        Certain bacteria, known as plant-growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB), can improve plant health or protect them from pathogens and are used commercially to help crops. To further improve agricultural yields, it is helpful to identify factors that can improve PGPB behavior.

Source: Phys

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An automated tool for assessing virus data quality

        Through advances in sequencing technologies and computational approaches, more and more virus sequences are being recovered and identified from environmental samples (metagenomes). However, the quality and completeness of metagenome-assembled virus sequences vary widely. In a previous effort, an international consortium recommended specific guidelines and best practices for characterizing uncultivated viruses. Following up on those guidelines, JGI researchers have now developed CheckV (pronounced "Check-Vee") to help researchers assess and improve the quality of metagenome-assembled viral genomes.

Source: Phys

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Salt-tolerant bacteria with an appetite for sludge make biodegradable plastics

        In the September issue of the journal American Chemical Society (ACS) Omega, the researchers report that the bacterium Zobellella denitrificans ZD1, found in mangroves, can consume sludge and wastewater to produce polyhydroxybutyrate, a type of biopolymer that can be used in lieu of petroleum-based plastics. In addition to reducing the burden on landfills and the environment, the researchers said Zobellella denitrificans ZD1 offers a way to cut down upstream costs for bioplastics manufacturing, a step toward making them more competitively priced against regular plastics.

Source: Phys

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When strains of E.coli play rock-paper-scissors, it's not the strongest that survives

        Bacteria is all around us—not just in bathrooms or kitchen counters, but also inside our bodies, including in tumors, where microbiota often flourish. These 'small ecologies' can hold the key to cancer drug therapies and learning more about them can help development new life-saving treatments.

Source: Phys

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November - 2020

Glyphosate may affect human gut microbiota

        Glyphosate is the most commonly used broad-spectrum herbicide. Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland have developed a new bioinformatics tool to predict if a microbe, e.g. a human gut bacterium, is sensitive to glyphosate.

Source: Phys

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Microbes might be gatekeepers of the planet's greatest greenhouse gas reserves

        Massive greenhouse gas reserves, frozen deep under the seabed, are alarmingly now starting to thaw. That's according to an international team of scientists whose preliminary findings were recently reported in the Guardian. These deposits, technically called methane "gas hydrates," are often described as "fiery ice" due to the parlor trick of burning atop a Bunsen burner what appears to be ice.

Source: Phys

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Researchers find key to piercing harmful bacteria's armor

        Bacteria are single-celled organisms that are essential to human health, both in our environment and inside our own bodies. However, certain bacterial species can make us sick.

Source: Phys

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Microbial space travel on a molecular scale

        Since the dawn of space exploration, humankind has been fascinated by survival of terrestrial life in outer space. Outer space is a hostile environment for any form of life, but some extraordinarily resistant microorganisms can survive. Such extremophiles may migrate between planets and distribute life across the Universe, underlying the panspermia hypothesis or interplanetary transfer of life.

Source: Phys

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October - 2020

Geologists simulate soil conditions to help grow plants on Mars

        Humankind's next giant step may be onto Mars. But before those missions can begin, scientists need to make scores of breakthrough advances, including learning how to grow crops on the red planet.

Source: Phys

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We estimate there are up to 14 million tonnes of microplastics on the seafloor. It's worse than we thought

        Nowhere, it seems, is immune from plastic pollution: plastic has been reported in the high Arctic oceans, in the sea ice around Antarctica and even in the world's deepest waters of the Mariana Trench.

Source: Phys

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COVID was just one—there could be 850,000 other animal viruses in the zoonotic pipeline

        Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases, warns a major new report on biodiversity and pandemics by 22 leading experts from around the world.

Source: Phys

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For when the chips are down—preserving UK soil microbial biodiversity for agriculture

        Scientists from the UK's foremost agricultural research institutes have teamed up to create a new UK Crop Microbiome Cyrobank (UK-CMCB) to safeguard future research and facilitate the sustainable yield improvement of the UK's six major food crops including barley, oats, oil seed rape, potato, sugar beet and wheat.

Source: Phys

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September - 2020

Climate warming is altering animals' gut microbes, which are critical to their health and survival

        It seems like each day scientists report more dire consequences of climate change on animals and plants worldwide. Birds that are migrating later in the year can't find enough food. Plants are flowering before their insect pollinators hatch. Prey species have less stamina to escape predators. In short, climatic shifts that affect one organism are likely to trigger ripple effects that can disturb the structure and functioning of entire ecosystems.

Source: Phys

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Cheap plastic is flooding developing countries, so we're making new biodegradable materials to help

        Squeezed by lower fuel demand during the pandemic and the rise of renewable energy, the oil industry is staking out a new future for itself in plastics. Instead of powering vehicles or generating electricity, oil companies are increasingly looking to use their product to manufacture cheap plastic packaging, which they can sell in lower to middle income countries.

Source: Phys

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Without oxygen, Earth's early microbes relied on arsenic to sustain life

        Much of life on planet Earth today relies on oxygen to exist, but before oxygen was present on our blue planet, lifeforms likely used arsenic instead. These findings are detailed in research published today in Communications Earth and Environment.

Source: Phys

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Animals' magnetic 'sixth' sense may come from bacteria, new paper suggests

        A University of Central Florida researcher is co-author of a new paper that may help answer why some animals have a magnetic 'sixth' sense, such as sea turtles' ability to return to the beach where they were born.

Source: Phys

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August - 2020

Researchers develop new chip design for analyzing plant-microbe interactions

        Plants interact with certain microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, in mutually beneficial ways that scientists are only beginning to fully understand. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to gain new insights about these interactions using a newly designed microfluidic device, a chip etched with tiny channels. This device can help support research to uncover better ways of promoting plant growth, engineering drought-resistant crops, remediating the environment and even boosting bioenergy feedstock production.

Source: Phys

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Microbial ecology yields new insights for future shipwreck conservation

        Shipwrecks act as artificial reefs and provide a substrate and nutrients for a great diversity of microorganisms, which can contribute to either the deterioration or preservation of the ship. Precisely how diverse such communities are, and how they are organized, is still unknown. Here, researchers from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, identify the bacteria associated with a shipwreck from the 1960s. They find a highly diverse community on the wreck, consisting of at least 4,800 OTUs (Operational Taxonomic Units, roughly corresponding to species) from 28 bacterial phyla, including nitrogen-, carbon-, sulfur-, and iron-cycling species. Microbial community composition strongly differed between locations within the site, suggesting niche partitioning, in the same way that fungal species specialize in particular microhabitats within a forest, based on the local abiotic and biotic environment. The results are published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Microbiology.

Source: Phys

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Algal symbiosis could shed light on dark ocean

        New research has revealed a surprise twist in the symbiotic relationship between a type of salamander and the alga that lives inside its eggs. A new paper in Frontiers in Microbiology reports that the eggs compete with the algae to assimilate carbon from their surroundings—a finding that could inform similar processes in the dark ocean.

Source: Phys

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How a gooey slime helps bacteria survive

        Bacteria have the ability to adapt to their environment to survive the host's immune defense. One such survival strategy includes the formation of a biofilm that prevents the immune system or antibiotics from reaching the bacteria. In a new study, researchers from the University of Tsukuba revealed that modulations to biofilm structure as a result of temperature changes are regulated by the production of a novel extracellular protein called BsaA in the bacterium C. perfringens produces.

Source: Phys

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July - 2020

Deep sea microbes dormant for 100 million years are hungry and ready to multiply

        For decades, scientists have gathered ancient sediment samples from below the seafloor to better understand past climates, plate tectonics and the deep marine ecosystem. In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers reveal that given the right food in the right laboratory conditions, microbes collected from sediment as old as 100 million years can revive and multiply, even after laying dormant since large dinosaurs prowled the planet.

Source: Phys

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An open-source data platform for researchers studying archaea

        Bioinformatics and big data analyses can reap great rewards for biologists, but it takes a lot of work to generate the datasets necessary to begin. At the same time, researchers around the globe churn out datasets that could be useful to others but are not always widely shared.

Source: Phys

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Study looks at life inside and outside of seafloor hydrocarbon seeps

        Microbial cells are found in abundance in marine sediments beneath the ocean and make up a significant amount of the total microbial biomass on the planet. Microbes found deeper in the ocean, such as in hydrocarbon seeps, are usually believed to have slow population turnover rates and low amounts of available energy, where the further down a microbe is found, the less energy it has available.

Source: Phys

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The story behind a uniquely dark wetland soil

        When it comes to soils, proper identification is key. Identification allows scientists to determine the story behind the soil: how it formed, how it behaves in different scenarios, and how valuable it may be to certain plants and animals.

Source: Phys

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June - 2020

Novel species of fungi discovered on bat carcasses in the limestone caves of southwest China

        A subterranean expedition led by Prof. Xu Jianchu from the Kunming Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences highlights the importance of understanding the ways in which the relationships between cave organisms and fungal species may have serious ecological and economic implications.

Source: Phys

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Microfossil spectroscopy dates Earth's first animals

        Molecular clock dates for the first animals to walk the Earth don't match the fossil record. Comparing the disparate DNA of two different species and extrapolating how long it would take for them to mutate from a common ancestor suggests animals existed 833-650 million years ago, but the oldest animal fossils discovered so far only date back 580 million years. One explanation is shortcomings in the fossil record—animals did exist, but the rocks and environment were not suitable for fossilization until only 580 million years ago. Now, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and high-resolution infrared spectroscopy have identified the minerals in the mudstones around ancient microfossils, giving insights into their formation suggesting that the right conditions for fossilization existed long before the first animal fossils found so far began to form. The results might also hint at how best to look for evidence of life on Mars.

Source: Phys

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Gut bacteria may modify behavior in worms, influencing eating habits

        Gut bacteria are tiny but may play an outsized role not only in the host animal's digestive health, but in their overall well-being. According to a new study in Nature, specific gut bacteria in the worm may modify the animal's behavior, directing its dining decisions. The research was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Phys

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How bacteria fertilize soya

        Plants need nitrogen in the form of ammonium if they are to grow. In the case of a great many cultivated plants, farmers are obliged to spread this ammonium on their fields as fertiliser. Manufacturing ammonium is an energy-intensive and costly process—and today's production methods also release large amounts of CO2.

Source: Phys

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May - 2020

Next frontier in bacterial engineering

        From bacteria-made insulin that obviates the use of animal pancreases to a better understanding of infectious diseases and improved treatments, genetic engineering of bacteria has redefined modern medicine. Yet, serious limitations remain that hamper| progress in numerous other areas.

Source: Phys

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Tiny bacteria help plants shrink their booze output

        Scientists have known for some time that plants are the planet's largest source of methanol, an alcohol that is highly abundant in the atmosphere.

Source: Phys

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Seagrasses will benefit from global change

        Researchers show that seagrasses will benefit from increases in the temperature and CO2 in the oceans because their capacity to acquire nitrogen will be enhanced, not limiting their growth.

Source: Phys

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Microorganisms in parched regions extract needed water from colonized rocks

        The new insights, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate how life can flourish in places without much water in evidence—such as Mars—and how people living in arid regions may someday derive hydration from available minerals.

Source: Phys

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April - 2020

Evolution of bacterial movement revealed

        An international team with researchers from Leiden revealed how a bacterium repurposed an internal system to control its movements. Movement control is very important in host invasion, which can lead to disease. Publication on 27 April in Nature Communications.

Source: Phys

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Microorganisms work together to survive high temperatures

        The conventional view is that high temperatures cause microorganisms to replicate slowly or die. In this current textbook view, microorganisms combat heat-induced damage on their own. Reporting in Nature Microbiology, Delft researchers Diederik Laman Trip and Hyun Youk demonstrate that microorganisms (in this case baker's yeast) can actually work together and help each other and their future generations survive and replicate at high temperatures.

Source: Phys

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Plants control microbiome diversity inside leaves to promote health

        In a new study, published in the journal Nature, Michigan State University scientists show how plant genes select which microbes get to live inside their leaves in order to stay healthy.

Source: Phys

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Discovery of life in solid rock deep beneath sea may inspire new search for life on Mars

        Newly discovered single-celled creatures living deep beneath the seafloor have given researchers clues about how they might find life on Mars. These bacteria were discovered living in tiny cracks inside volcanic rocks after researchers persisted over a decade of trial and error to find a new way to examine the rocks.

Source: Phys

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March - 2020

Even bacteria need their space: Squished cells may shut down photosynthesis

        Introverts take heart: When cells, like some people, get too squished, they can go into defense mode, even shutting down photosynthesis.

Source: Phys

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Method yields high rate of D-lactate using cyanobacteria, could revolutionize bioplastic production

        A Kobe University led research team has illuminated the mechanism by which cyanobacteria (Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803) produces D-lactate, showing that malic enzyme facilitates this production. Subsequently, they succeeded in producing the world's highest rate (26.6g/L) of D-lactate directly from CO2 and light by modifying the D-lactate synthesis pathway using genetic engineering.

Source: Phys

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Gene regulatory factors enable bacteria to kill rivals and establish symbiosis in a squid

        Two factors that control the expression of a key gene required by luminescent bacteria to kill competing bacterial cells have been identified. The finding, by researchers at Penn State, sheds light on the molecular mechanisms that enable different strains of bacteria to compete and establish symbiosis in the Hawaiian bobtail squid. Consequently, the study, which appears online in the Journal of Bacteriology, adds to our understanding of how the make-up of a host's microbiome is determined, and may be applicable to more complex microbiomes in humans.

Source: Phys

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How will billions of marine microbes adapt to climate change?

        Climate change is heating the oceans, which affects billions of marine microbes in ways scientists don't fully understand. In response, USC researchers have developed a model to forecast how these important organisms will adapt to warming seas.

Source: Phys

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February - 2020

Wasps' gut microbes help them—and their offspring—survive pesticides

        Exposure to the widely used pesticide atrazine leads to heritable changes in the gut microbiome of wasps, finds a study publishing February 4 in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. Additionally, the altered microbiome confers atrazine resistance, which is inherited across successive generations not exposed to the pesticide.

Source: Phys

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Microbes linked to cancer in threatened California foxes, report Princeton researchers

        Microbes are known to affect digestion, mood and overall health, and now Princeton researchers have shown that a shift in the microbiome is linked to cancer—at least in a threatened subspecies of foxes found only on one island off the California coast.

Source: Phys

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Study shows universally positive effect of cover crops on soil microbiome

        Only a fraction of conventional row crop farmers grow cover crops after harvest, but a new global analysis from the University of Illinois shows the practice can boost soil microbial abundance by 27%.

Source: Phys

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Biodiversity increases the efficiency of energy use in grasslands

        Plants obtain their energy from the sun. Other beings rely on eating to survive. Yet how does the energy flow inside ecosystems function and are there differences between ecosystems with many species in comparison to those with few species? Researchers have now examined these questions using a holistic approach by evaluating data gathered through a large-scale biodiversity experiment.

Source: Phys

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January - 2020

Microscopic partners could help plants survive stressful environments

        Tiny, symbiotic fungi play an outsized role in helping plants survive stresses like drought and extreme temperatures, which could help feed a planet experiencing climate change, report scientists at Washington State University.

Source: Phys

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New portable tool analyzes microbes in the environment

        Imagine a device that could swiftly analyze microbes in oceans and other aquatic environments, revealing the health of these organisms—too tiny to be seen by the naked eye—and their response to threats to their ecosystems.

Source: Phys

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Team significantly expands the global diversity of large and giant viruses

        While the microbes in a single drop of water could outnumber a small city's population, the number of viruses in the same drop—the vast majority not harmful to humans—could be even larger. Viruses infect bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes, and they range in particle and genome size from small, to large and even giant. The genomes of giant viruses are on the order of 100 times the size of what has typically been associated with viruses, while the genomes of large viruses may be only 10 times larger. And yet, while they are found everywhere, comparatively little is known about viruses, much less those considered large and giant.

Source: Phys

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Study weighs deep-sea mining's impact on microbes

       The essential roles that microbes play in deep-sea ecosystems are at risk from the potential environmental impacts of mining, a new paper in Limnology and Oceanography reports. The study reviews what is known about microbes in these environments and assesses how mining could impact their important environmental roles.

Source: Phys

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