Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Ribosomal RNA


Dispersal of microbes between humans and the built environment can occur through direct contact with surfaces or through airborne release; the latter mechanism remains poorly understood. Humans emit upwards of 10(6) biological particles per hour, and have long been known to transmit pathogens to other individuals and to indoor surfaces. However it has not previously been demonstrated that humans emit a detectible microbial cloud into surrounding indoor air, nor whether such clouds are sufficiently differentiated to allow the identification of individual occupants. We used high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA genes to characterize the airborne bacterial contribution of a single person sitting in a sanitized custom experimental climate chamber. We compared that to air sampled in an adjacent, identical, unoccupied chamber, as well as to supply and exhaust air sources. Additionally, we assessed microbial communities in settled particles surrounding each occupant, to investigate the potential long-term fate of airborne microbial emissions. Most occupants could be clearly detected by their airborne bacterial emissions, as well as their contribution to settled particles, within 1.5-4 h. Bacterial clouds from the occupants were statistically distinct, allowing the identification of some individual occupants. Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one, and demonstrate for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, 16S ribosomal RNA, Microorganism


The human skin is an organ with a surface area of 1.5-2 m(2) that provides our interface with the environment. The molecular composition of this organ is derived from host cells, microbiota, and external molecules. The chemical makeup of the skin surface is largely undefined. Here we advance the technologies needed to explore the topographical distribution of skin molecules, using 3D mapping of mass spectrometry data and microbial 16S rRNA amplicon sequences. Our 3D maps reveal that the molecular composition of skin has diverse distributions and that the composition is defined not only by skin cells and microbes but also by our daily routines, including the application of hygiene products. The technological development of these maps lays a foundation for studying the spatial relationships of human skin with hygiene, the microbiota, and environment, with potential for developing predictive models of skin phenotypes tailored to individual health.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, Ribosomal RNA, Geography, 16S ribosomal RNA, Skin, Map


Early-life exposure to household pets has the capacity to reduce risk for overweight and allergic disease, especially following caesarean delivery. Since there is some evidence that pets also alter the gut microbial composition of infants, changes to the gut microbiome are putative pathways by which pet exposure can reduce these risks to health. To investigate the impact of pre- and postnatal pet exposure on infant gut microbiota following various birth scenarios, this study employed a large subsample of 746 infants from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development Study (CHILD) cohort, whose mothers were enrolled during pregnancy between 2009 and 2012. Participating mothers were asked to report on household pet ownership at recruitment during the second or third trimester and 3 months postpartum. Infant gut microbiota were profiled with 16S rRNA sequencing from faecal samples collected at the mean age of 3.3 months. Two categories of pet exposure (i) only during pregnancy and (ii) pre- and postnatally were compared to no pet exposure under different birth scenarios.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Gut flora, Ribosomal RNA, Allergy, 16S ribosomal RNA, Feces


Gastrointestinal disturbances are among symptoms commonly reported by individuals diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). However, whether ME/CFS is associated with an altered microbiome has remained uncertain. Here, we profiled gut microbial diversity by sequencing 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) genes from stool as well as inflammatory markers from serum for cases (n = 48) and controls (n = 39). We also examined a set of inflammatory markers in blood: C-reactive protein (CRP), intestinal fatty acid-binding protein (I-FABP), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), LPS-binding protein (LBP), and soluble CD14 (sCD14).

Concepts: Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Amino acid, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, C-reactive protein


Clostridium difficile causes antibiotic-associated diarrhea and pseudomembraneous colitis and is responsible for a large and increasing fraction of hospital-acquired infections. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an alternate treatment option for recurrent C. difficile infection (RCDI) refractory to antibiotic therapy. It has recently been discussed favorably in the clinical and scientific communities and is receiving increasing public attention. However, short- and long-term health consequences of FMT remain a concern, as the effects of the transplanted microbiota on the patient remain unknown. To shed light on microbial events associated with RCDI and treatment by FMT, we performed fecal microbiota analysis by 16S rRNA gene amplicon pyrosequencing of 14 pairs of healthy donors and RCDI patients treated successfully by FMT. Post-FMT patient and healthy donor samples collected up to one year after FMT were studied longitudinally, including one post-FMT patient with antibiotic-associated relapse three months after FMT. This analysis allowed us not only to confirm prior reports that RCDI is associated with reduced diversity and compositional changes in the fecal microbiota, but also to characterize previously undocumented post-FMT microbiota dynamics. Members of the Streptococcaceae, Enterococcaceae, or Enterobacteriaceae were significantly increased and putative butyrate producers, such as Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae were significantly reduced in samples from RCDI patients before FMT as compared to post-FMT patient and healthy donor samples. RCDI patient samples showed more case-specific variations than post-FMT patient and healthy donor samples. However, none of the bacterial groups were invariably associated with RCDI or successful treatment by FMT. Overall microbiota compositions in post-FMT patients, specifically abundances of the above-mentioned Firmicutes, continued to change for at least 16 weeks after FMT, suggesting that full microbiota recovery from RCDI may take much longer than expected based on the disappearance of diarrheal symptoms immediately after FMT.

Concepts: Bacteria, Gut flora, Ribosomal RNA, Antibiotic resistance, 16S ribosomal RNA, Antibiotic, Clostridium difficile, Diarrhea


We present bacterial biogeography as sampled from the human gastrointestinal tract of four healthy subjects. This study generated >32 million paired-end sequences of bacterial 16S rRNA genes (V3 region) representing >95,000 unique operational taxonomic units (OTUs; 97% similarity clusters), with >99% Good’s coverage for all samples. The highest OTU richness and phylogenetic diversity was found in the mouth samples. The microbial communities of multiple biopsy sites within the colon were highly similar within individuals and largely distinct from those in stool. Within an individual, OTU overlap among broad site definitions (mouth, stomach/duodenum, colon and stool) ranged from 32-110 OTUs, 25 of which were common to all individuals and included OTUs affiliated with Faecalibacterium prasnitzii and the TM7 phylum. This first comprehensive characterization of the abundant and rare microflora found along the healthy human digestive tract represents essential groundwork to investigate further how the human microbiome relates to health and disease.

Concepts: Archaea, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Digestive system, 16S ribosomal RNA, Gastroenterology, Human gastrointestinal tract, Digestion


Purely in vitro ribosome synthesis could provide a critical step towards unraveling the systems biology of ribosome biogenesis, constructing minimal cells from defined components, and engineering ribosomes with new functions. Here, as an initial step towards this goal, we report a method for constructing Escherichia coli ribosomes in crude S150 E. coli extracts. While conventional methods for E. coli ribosome reconstitution are non-physiological, our approach attempts to mimic chemical conditions in the cytoplasm, thus permitting several biological processes to occur simultaneously. Specifically, our integrated synthesis, assembly, and translation (iSAT) technology enables one-step co-activation of rRNA transcription, assembly of transcribed rRNA with native ribosomal proteins into functional ribosomes, and synthesis of active protein by these ribosomes in the same compartment. We show that iSAT makes possible the in vitro construction of modified ribosomes by introducing a 23S rRNA mutation that mediates resistance against clindamycin. We anticipate that iSAT will aid studies of ribosome assembly and open new avenues for making ribosomes with altered properties.

Concepts: Protein, Gene, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, Messenger RNA, Protein biosynthesis, Translation


The characterization of microbial community structure via 16S rRNA gene profiling has been greatly advanced in recent years by the introduction of amplicon pyrosequencing. The possibility of barcoding gives the opportunity to massively screen multiple samples from environmental or clinical sources for community details. However, an on-going debate questions the reproducibility and semi-quantitative rigour of pyrotag sequencing, similar to the early days of community fingerprinting. In this study we demonstrate the reproducibility of bacterial 454 pyrotag sequencing over biological and technical replicates of aquifer sediment bacterial communities. Moreover, we explore the potential of recovering specific template ratios via quantitatively defined template spiking to environmental DNA. We sequenced pyrotag libraries of triplicate sediment samples taken in annual sampling campaigns at a tar oil contaminated aquifer in Düsseldorf, Germany. The abundance of dominating lineages was highly reproducible with a maximal standard deviation of ~4% read abundance across biological, and ~2% across technical replicates. Our workflow also allows for the linking of read abundances within defined assembled pyrotag contigs to that of specific ‘in vivo’ fingerprinting signatures. Thus we demonstrate that both terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis and pyrotag sequencing are capable of recovering highly comparable community structure. Overall diversity was roughly double in amplicon sequencing. Pyrotag libraries were also capable of linearly recovering increasing ratios (up to 20%) of 16S rRNA gene amendments from a pure culture of Aliivibrio fisheri spiked to sediment DNA. Our study demonstrates that 454 pyrotag sequencing is a robust and reproducible method, capable of reliably recovering template abundances and overall community structure within natural microbial communities.

Concepts: DNA, Scientific method, Molecular biology, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, 16S ribosomal RNA, Restriction fragment length polymorphism


Periodontitis, one of the most common diseases in the world, is caused by a mixture of pathogenic bacteria and inflammatory host responses and often treated by antimicrobials as an adjunct to scaling and root planing (SRP). Our study aims to elucidate explorative and descriptive temporal shifts in bacterial communities between patients treated by SRP alone versus SRP plus antibiotics. This is the first metagenomic study using an Ion Torrent Personal Genome Machine (PGM). Eight subgingival plaque samples from four patients with chronic periodontitis, taken before and two months after intervention were analyzed. Amplicons from the V6 hypervariable region of the 16S rRNA gene were generated and sequenced each on a 314 chip. Sequencing reads were clustered into operational taxonomic units (OTUs, 3% distance), described by community metrics, and taxonomically classified. Reads ranging from 599,933 to 650,416 per sample were clustered into 1,648 to 2,659 non-singleton OTUs, respectively. Increased diversity (Shannon and Simpson) in all samples after therapy was observed regardless of the treatment type whereas richness (ACE) showed no correlation. Taxonomic analysis revealed different microbial shifts between both therapy approaches at all taxonomic levels. Most remarkably, the genera Porphyromonas, Tannerella, Treponema, and Filifactor all harboring periodontal pathogenic species were removed almost only in the group treated with SPR and antibiotics. For the species T. forsythia and P. gingivalis results were corroborated by real-time PCR analysis. In the future, hypothesis free metagenomic analysis could be the key in understanding polymicrobial diseases and be used for therapy monitoring. Therefore, as read length continues to increase and cost to decrease, rapid benchtop sequencers like the PGM might finally be used in routine diagnostic.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, 16S ribosomal RNA, Pathogenic bacteria


Massively parallel high throughput sequencing technologies allow us to interrogate the microbial composition of biological samples at unprecedented resolution. The typical approach is to perform high-throughout sequencing of 16S rRNA genes, which are then taxonomically classified based on similarity to known sequences in existing databases. Current technologies cause a predicament though, because although they enable deep coverage of samples, they are limited in the length of sequence they can produce. As a result, high-throughout studies of microbial communities often do not sequence the entire 16S rRNA gene. The challenge is to obtain reliable representation of bacterial communities through taxonomic classification of short 16S rRNA gene sequences. In this study we explored properties of different study designs and developed specific recommendations for effective use of short-read sequencing technologies for the purpose of interrogating bacterial communities, with a focus on classification using naïve Bayesian classifiers. To assess precision and coverage of each design, we used a collection of ∼8,500 manually curated 16S rRNA gene sequences from cultured bacteria and a set of over one million bacterial 16S rRNA gene sequences retrieved from environmental samples, respectively. We also tested different configurations of taxonomic classification approaches using short read sequencing data, and provide recommendations for optimal choice of the relevant parameters. We conclude that with a judicious selection of the sequenced region and the corresponding choice of a suitable training set for taxonomic classification, it is possible to explore bacterial communities at great depth using current technologies, with only a minimal loss of taxonomic resolution.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, Ribosomal RNA, Biotechnology, Taxonomy, 16S ribosomal RNA, Sequence