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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 3

Vertical Transmission, September 2007

Having just returned from the Adelaide Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) Annual Scientific Meeting I am full of enthusiasm for the future of the ASM. This was a very well attended meeting, with a program that served the diversity of our society well. The theme, ?Fermenting New Ideas?, was extremely apt. New ideas were expounded by the invited international speakers, the national speakers, proffered paper presenters and by the delegates themselves. The meeting certainly conveyed the sense of fermentation in the best possible way. I have ...

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Microbial ecology

This issue of Microbiology Australia is devoted to the field of microbial ecology, currently rapidly growing into a mature, vibrant and exceptionally relevant component of the discipline of microbiology. Indeed, I maintain that all microbiologists are microbial ecologists since the field covers the study of the interactions between living microorganisms and their environment. Microbial ecology links those areas in which microbiologists are traditionally trained (biochemistry/chemistry/microbiology) with ?ecology?, which is generally taught with...

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Antarctic metagenomics

The DNA sequencing of whole environmental samples (referred to as metagenomics, environmental genomics, ecogenomics or community genomics) captures genome surveys of uncultured microorganisms. By moving away from a species-by-species investigation of the environment, metagenomics enables a greatly expanded view of the diversity and metabolic function of the resident microbial communities. The southern polar region plays a critical role in maintaining microbial processes that are essential for the health of the world?s ecosystems, yet we know le...

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The living soil ? an agricultural perspective

Soils are much more than a porous medium for supporting plant growth. Soils are living, because they contain a wide range of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes and other fauna including microarthropods, macroarthropods, termites and earthworms. All play a crucial role in the biological function of soils including decomposition of organic matter, nutrient transformations, biological control, development of soil structure to mention a few. Until recently the complexity of life in the soil has been difficult to un...

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The vertebrate animal gut in context ? microbiomes, metagenomes and methane

The microbial world colonises the gastrointestinal tracts of vertebrates soon after birth or hatching. These animal-microbe relationships have been described as competitive, cooperative or combinatorial, and all provide a variety of functional and metabolic capabilities that are relevant to host animal nutrition, health and well-being. The evolutionary adaptations of Australia?s marsupial herbivores have been relatively well characterised and favour both the cooperative and combinatorial animal-microbe models. Kangaroos and wallabies possess th...

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Coral microbial ecology under the microscope

Increasing episodes of mass coral bleaching and a growing number of reports of coral disease epizootics have led to an expanding research field investigating the microbial ecology of reef building corals. Corals reside in a complex ecosystem and form intimate symbiotic relationships with eukaryotic dinoflagellates (commonly called zooxanthellae), which have been well studied. Less understood is the complex interactions that corals form with Bacteria, Archaea and viruses, all of which play an important functional role in coral health. Understand...

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Long in the tooth: Oral bacterial communities and chronic periodontitis

The oral cavity provides a fertile environment for the growth of microorganisms. It has a high and relatively constant temperature, high moisture level and is rich in nutrients. The range of hard and soft tissue surfaces provides a variety of distinctly different microhabitats. The unique, non-shedding hard surfaces of teeth in particular allow for accretion of the thick, complex, structured polymicrobial biofilms known as dental plaque. The majority of oral bacteria exist as components of these biofilms that confer benefit to the host by helpi...

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How viruses control microbial ecosystems

Viruses are the most abundant nucleic acid containing biological parcel on earth, being ten times more than bacteria and archaea. Most are phage (infect bacteria), have a genome of DNA or RNA, and are encapsulated in a protein coat at concentrations of 1010/L in aquatic environments. The planet holds 1031 viruses inthe oceans alone and their biomass equals 200 Mt of carbon or 75 million blue whales. Stretched end-to-end they would span 10 million light years. They are obligate parasites and without doubt a pervasive influence on microbial ecosy...

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The slippery business of slime control

What do that scummy feeling on your teeth in the morning, corrosion of oil and gas pipelines, and the slick film building up on the mystery food in the back of your refrigerator have in common? They are all manifestations of microbial slime, which is the result of bacteria growing as a community on a surface held together in an extracellular matrix. These are more commonly referred to as biofilms, which we constantly encounter in everyday life. Bacteria seem to favour growing as biofilms because this provides a range of distinct advantages, inc...

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Metaproteomics for analysis of microbial function in the environment

This report briefly describes the use of proteomic analyses to examine protein expression directly from environmental samples (termed metaproteomics). This approach has potential for solving one of the major challenges facing microbial ecologists, by providing insight into microbial function directly within samples.

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Mining with microbes

As early as 166 AD, biotechnology was applied to the extraction of metals from ores in the copper mines of Cyprus, and in 1928 in Kennecott, USA, ?dump leaching? ? the use of microorganisms to extract copper from low grade mine waste material ? was conducted on commercial scale. It was not until 1947 that Colmer and Hinkle 1 demonstrated the role that microorganisms play in the oxidation of mineral sulfides for the release of metals in solution. Currently, 20% of annual global copper production results largely through the bioleaching of chalcoc...

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Growing the recalcitrant

Unculturable microorganisms are those that have been identifiedby microscopy, by their activity or by detection of phylogenetic markers such as their 16S rRNA genes, and have not been able to be cultured, despite reasonable efforts having been made. Recent successes in the cultivation of so-called unculturable microorganisms have revealed that the key ingredient in therecipe for growing them in the laboratory is patience. Beyond that, there is probably no single secret to success and microbial diversity must be matched by experimental ingenuity...

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Beyond boxes and arrows: Putting the ?bio? into biogeochemistry

The Gaia hypothesis proposes that the earth can be viewed as a single living entity. While this idea remains controversial, there is no doubt that the biotic and abiotic components of the earth are intimately linked in complex webs of chemical reactions collectively described as biogeochemistry. Microbes are the catalysts of most such reactions, but despite their importance, there is a tendency to oversimplify microbial contributions using boxes (compounds) and arrows (reactions). In this brief review, I will highlight recent research that look...

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Microbes and disturbance

The microbiology of disturbed environments is a vigorous area of research that has benefited from cultivation-independent molecular techniques. Our challenge now is to embrace the concept of ?microbial landscapes? in all its complexity and recognise the multidisciplinary nature of molecular and microbial ecology.

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ASM Affairs, September 2007

EDSIG; Essential management skills for laboratory managers; ASM 2007 Adelaide, South Australia, 9 ? 13 July; Streptomyces in nature and medicine: The Antibiotic Makers; ASM Awards and Rubbo Oration; ASM new members; The ASM ? ASM Postgraduate Travel Award; ASM sustaining members; International yeast conference report: The world?s best microbe..

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