Vibrant cities around the world are made up of a unique blend of cultures, languages, cuisines, and – as scientists recently revealed – microbes. Nearly 1,000 scientists from around the world, including three from Berkeley Lab, collected and analyzed microbial samples from public transit stations across 60 global cities. They probed ticket kiosks, benches, and rails to see what tiny organisms like bacteria, viruses, and archaea were in residence.
A group of scientists who study the interactions between plants and microbes have published a study detailing the dynamic relationships between soil-dwelling, single-celled organisms called protists and developing plants. Protist communities near plant roots were found to respond to the different developmental stages of switchgrass, a crop with excellent potential as a bioenergy feedstock, much like bacterial communities do.
Researchers in the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) and Biological Systems and Engineering (BSE) Divisions at Berkeley Lab employed a large-scale functional genomics approach to systematically characterize Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a beneficial bacterium prevalent in the human gut. They performed hundreds of genome-wide fitness assays and identified new functions for 40 proteins, including antibiotic tolerance, polysaccharide degradation, and colonization of the GI tract in germ-free mice.
Microbes found in the goat gut microbiome could help humans convert plant material into valuable, eco-friendly commodities
Converting the tough fibers and complex sugars in plants into biofuels and other products could be humanity’s ticket to smarter materials, better medicines, and a petroleum-free, sustainable future. But harnessing the chemical commodities stored in these molecules is no simple task. We may take it for granted because our bodies seem to do it automatically, but in reality, every time we eat a vegetable or leafy green, the microbial communities living inside of us are performing an elaborate disassembly line of coordinated chemical reactions to break the plant matter into simple sugars that human cells can use.
The prevalence of anxiety disorders, already the most common mental illness in many countries, including the U.S., has surged during the novel coronavirus pandemic. A study led by researchers in Berkeley Lab’s Biosciences Area provides evidence that taking care of our gut microbiome may help mitigate some of that anxiety.