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Interesting facts about Microorganisms

April - 2024

Study finds microbes hitchhike on microplastics to reach the sea

        The oceans contain large amounts of microplastics, particles that are less than 5 mm in size. In parts of the Baltic Sea, the concentration of microplastics can be as much as 3,300 particles per cubic meter. The microplastics end up in aquatic environments through industrial or domestic sewage and littering. Because they are difficult to degrade, they can be persistent in the ecosystem and affect many aquatic organisms. A large proportion of microplastics in the oceans have been washed out via rivers and other waterways. These microplastics are also accompanied by the microorganisms that grow on the surface of the particles. But the composition of microorganisms differs between freshwater and seawater. The fact that the microorganisms "hitchhike" with the plastic particles means that many microorganisms from the freshwater follow the small particles into the sea. Will this affect the composition of microorganisms in the marine environment?

 

Source: Phys

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Unique field study shows how climate change affects fire-impacted forests

        During the unusually dry year of 2018, Sweden was hit by numerous forest fires. A research team led from Lund University in Sweden has investigated how climate change affects recently burned boreal forests and their ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The boreal forests form a single biome that spans the entire Northern Hemisphere. These forests play a key role in the global climate system by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Increasing forest fires, in the wake of climate change, threaten to undermine this ecosystem service.

 

Source: Phys

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Soil bacteria link their life strategies to soil conditions: Study

        Soil bacteria help regulate the cycling of carbon and nutrients on Earth. Over time, these bacteria have evolved strategies that determine where they live, what they do, and how they deal with a changing environment. However, microbiologists do not fully understand how bacteria's genes relate to their life strategies. By analyzing large DNA sequencing datasets from around the globe, researchers discovered a new way of categorizing the dominant life strategies of soil bacteria based on their genes. This technique allowed the researchers to link different life strategies with specific climate and soil conditions. Their paper is published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

 

Source: Phys

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Attack and defense in the microverse: How small RNA molecules regulate viral infections of bacteria

        Viruses need hosts. Whether it's measles, the flu or coronavirus, viral pathogens cannot multiply or infect other organisms without the assistance of their hosts' cellular infrastructure. However, humans are not the only ones affected by viruses: animals, plants and even microorganisms can all serve as hosts. Viruses that use bacteria as host cells are called bacteriophages (or simply "phages" for short) and are thought to be the most abundant biological entities of all. Just as the human immune system springs into action to resist a flu or coronavirus infection, bacteria do not simply allow phages to infiltrate their cellular machinery without a fight.

 

Source: Phys

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March - 2024

Say hello to biodegradable microplastics: Plant-based polymers that can disappear within seven months

        Microplastics are tiny, nearly indestructible fragments shed from everyday plastic products. As we learn more about microplastics, the news keeps getting worse. Already well-documented in our oceans and soil, we're now discovering them in the unlikeliest of places: our arteries, lungs and even placentas. Microplastics can take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to break down and, in the meantime, our planet and bodies are becoming more polluted with these materials every day

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Source: Phys

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Tropical plants beat drought by interacting with specific microbes, study shows

        Plant-soil-microbe interactions play a crucial role in processes that take place in the soil directly around plant roots, or the rhizosphere, and these processes contribute to nutrient cycling and metabolite turnover in the environment. Amid the water scarcity that occurs with climate change, plants are forced to adapt through a range of processes that impact soil organic matter turnover in the rhizosphere.

Source: Phys

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'Molecular Rosetta Stone' reveals how our microbiomes 'talk' to us

        Researchers from Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California San Diego have uncovered thousands of previously unknown bile acids, a type of molecule used by our gut microbiome to communicate with the rest of the body. "Bile acids are a key component of the language of the gut microbiome, and finding this many new types radically expands our vocabulary for understanding what our gut microbes do and how they do it," said senior author Pieter Dorrestein, Ph.D., professor at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and professor of pharmacology and pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "It's like going from 'See Spot Run' to Shakespeare."

Source: Phys

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In peatland soil, a warmer climate and elevated carbon dioxide rapidly alter soil organic matter

        Soils in northern freshwater wetlands, called peatlands, are cold, water-saturated, and acidic. These conditions slow microbes' decomposition of organic matter into greenhouse gases. This process stores carbon in the soil. Researchers use the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment to warm air and soil in a northern Minnesota bog to simulate the effects of climate change on the carbon cycle.

Source: Phys

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February - 2024

Anoxic marine basins are among the best candidates for deep-sea carbon sequestration, say scientists

        Anoxic marine basins may be among the most viable places to conduct large-scale carbon sequestration in the deep ocean, while minimizing negative impacts on marine life. So say UC Santa Barbara researchers in a paper published in the journal AGU Advances. As we explore ways to actively draw down the levels of carbon in the atmosphere, sending plant biomass to these barren, oxygen-free zones on the seafloor becomes an option worth considering, they suggest.

Source: Phys

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Interaction between two common oral bacteria creates chemical compound responsible for bad breath

        In a study published last month in mSystems, researchers from Osaka University revealed that the interaction between two common types of oral bacteria leads to the production of a chemical compound that is a major cause of smelly breath. Bad breath is caused by volatile compounds that are produced when bacteria in the mouth digest substances like blood and food particles. One of the smelliest of these compounds is methyl mercaptan (CH3SH), which is produced by microbes that live around the teeth and on the surface of the tongue. However, little is known about which specific bacterial species are involved in this process.

Source: Phys

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Microfluidic environments alter microbe behaviors, opening potential for engineering their social evolution

        Microbes are social beings. Much like humans, they communicate and cooperate with each other to solve problems bigger than themselves. In a microbial community, there will even be free riders and others that police them. So, what if researchers could influence their social evolution to promote certain behaviors? Doing so can be vital to solving many of today's challenges such as combating infection and antibiotic resistance, developing microbial strategies for wastewater treatment or harvesting alternative energy sources.

Source: Phys

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In peatland soil, a warmer climate and elevated carbon dioxide rapidly alter soil organic matter

        Soils in northern freshwater wetlands, called peatlands, are cold, water-saturated, and acidic. These conditions slow microbes' decomposition of organic matter into greenhouse gases. This process stores carbon in the soil. Researchers use the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) experiment to warm air and soil in a northern Minnesota bog to simulate the effects of climate change on the carbon cycle. In a new study, researchers have tested whether different components of the organic matter in soil would degrade at different rates in response to climate change. Surprisingly, the experiments showed that all organic soil components can break down more quickly in warmer conditions.

Source: Phys

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January - 2024

How much life has ever existed on Earth?

        All organisms are made of living cells. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the first cells came to exist, geologists' best estimates suggest at least as early as 3.8 billion years ago. But how much life has inhabited this planet since the first cell on Earth? And how much life will ever exist on Earth?

Source: Phys

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Iron influences plant immunity and may promote resiliency against climate change

        Plants and animals alike rely on iron for growth and regulation of microbiomes—collections of bacteria, fungi, and more that co-exist in places like the human gut or the soil around a plant's roots. Plants face a special challenge when acquiring iron, since the strategies plants use to increase iron availability alter the root microbiome and can inadvertently benefit harmful soil-dwelling bacteria. Now, Salk scientists have discovered how plants manage iron deficiency without helping "bad" bacteria thrive—by eliminating IMA1, the molecular signal for iron deficiency in roots at risk of bacterial attack. Additionally, they found that more IMA1 in leaves can make them more resistant to bacterial attack, suggesting the iron deficiency signaling pathway and plant immune system are deeply intertwined.

Source: Phys

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The surprisingly resourceful ways bacteria thrive in the human gut

        The gut microbiome is so useful to human digestion and health that it is often called an extra digestive organ. This vast collection of bacteria and other microorganisms in the intestine helps us break down foods and produce nutrients or other metabolites that impact human health in a myriad of ways. New research from the University of Chicago shows that some groups of these microbial helpers are amazingly resourceful too, with a large repertoire of genes that help them generate energy for themselves and potentially influence human health as well.

Source: Phys

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Uncovering how tiny plastics threaten our soil and health

        In a study published online in Eco-Environment & Health, researchers from Zhejiang Shuren University and China Agricultural University have delved into the interaction of tiny plastics and soil, aiming to provide insights into the mechanisms and implications of plastic pollution on soil health and antibiotic resistance. In this study, scientists investigated the effects of tiny plastic particles, known as nanoplastics and microplastics, on the bacterial community structure and the spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in soil. They focused on polystyrene, a common plastic pollutant.

Source: Phys

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