Debashish Bhattacharya Discovers How Some Algae May Survive Climate Change
October 12, 2018
Green algae that evolved to tolerate hostile and fluctuating conditions in salt marshes and inland salt flats are expected to survive climate change, thanks to hardy genes they stole from bacteria, according to a Rutgers-led study.
These Picochlorum single-celled species of green algae provide clues to how nature can modify genomes, and suggest ways in which scientists may someday engineer more robust algae to serve as biofuels and provide other benefits, according to senior author Debashish Bhattacharya, distinguished professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
The study appears in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
Gloria Dominguez-Bello Calls for Microbial "Noah's Ark" to Protect Global Health
By Neal Buccino, Rutgers Today
October 5, 2018
A Rutgers University–New Brunswick-led team of researchers is calling for the creation of a global microbiota vault to protect the long-term health of humanity.
Such a Noah’s Ark of beneficial germs would be gathered from human populations whose microbiomes are uncompromised by antibiotics, processed diets and other ill effects of modern society, which have contributed to a massive loss of microbial diversity and an accompanying rise in health problems. The human microbiome includes the trillions of microscopic organisms that live in and on our bodies, contributing to our health in a myriad of ways.
The researchers, who outline their proposal this week in the journal Science, liken their idea to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world’s largest collection of crop diversity created in case of natural or human-made disasters.
“We’re facing a growing global health crisis, which requires that we capture and preserve the diversity of the human microbiota while it still exists,” said Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, the lead author and a professor in Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Department of Anthropology. “These microbes co-evolved with humans over hundreds of millennia. They help us digest food, strengthen our immune system and protect against invading germs. Over a handful of generations, we have seen a staggering loss in microbial diversity linked with a worldwide spike in immune and other disorders.”
Debashish Bhattacharya Receives Three-Year $611,311 Grant from the National Science Foundation
October 2, 2018
Debashish Bhattacharya, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology has received a three-year $611,311 grant from the National Science Foundation to build a comprehensive model for the coral stress response using genomic and physiological data. The work is entitled, Elucidating Adaptive Potential through Coral Holobiont Functional Integration. The project field site is at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology in Oahu and includes coral ecologist Hollie Putnam (PI) at the University of Rhode Island and bioinformatics specialist Arik Harel (Co-PI) at the Institute of Plant Sciences in The Volcani Center in Israel. The total NSF support for the proposal is $1.1 million with additional funding provided by the Binational Science Foundation for the Israeli partner.
Discovery of New Delivery System for Antimicrobials
October 1, 2018
A team of Rutgers scientists has discovered a novel delivery system for the delivery of antimicrobials. Teams of scientists led by Tewodros Asefa (Departments of Chemistry & Chemical Biology and Chemical & Biological Engineering) and Jeff Boyd (Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology) synthesized silica-based nanoparticles that contained an antimicrobial.
The particles were found to efficiently kill two human bacterial pathogens. Interestingly, the particles were more effective at killing than the antimicrobial possibly highlighting a more efficient process for drug delivery. Bacteria are rapidly evolving resistances to antibiotics and these findings could aid in the application of antimicrobial therapy to prevent bacterial infections or inhibit the growth of bacteria in unwanted locations. This study also opens the door to synthesizing new nan-particles containing alternate antimicrobials.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Read more at Rutgers Today.
Gloria Dominguez-Bello's Research on the Diversity of Gut Microbes in Rainforest-Dwelling Communities Featured
By the Rutgers Office of Communications
September 7, 2018
Can immersing yourself in a South American jungle and the high-fiber, unprocessed diet of its villagers make your gut microbes more diverse? And could it have benefits for people with obesity, type 1 diabetes and other disorders?
A study led by Rutgers University–New Brunswick researchers followed seven city-dwelling adults and children who lived in a remote Venezuelan jungle village without electricity, soap or other amenities for 16 days.
For the children, their microbiome – the beneficial germs in their intestines, skin, mouths and noses – became more diverse, with higher proportions of helpful bacteria. A similar change did not occur in the adults who visited the rainforest.
The study appears in the journal mSphere.
"The findings suggest dietary interventions to encourage a more diverse microbiome may best succeed in children, while the microbiome of adults may be more resistant to change," said senior researcher Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a professor in Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology and Department of Anthropology.
Twelve-Year-Old Student Takes Bill Ward's Summer Course
By Beth Salomon, Rutgers Today
August 6, 2018
“Atharva is a wonderful kid and a scientist at heart," Bhanot said. "He is always asking questions and is never afraid to challenge authority. He reads, he thinks and he discusses deep and difficult topics. I predict he will become a great scientist and make many discoveries.”
...“As a child, he was always excited about science, animals, medicine and anatomy. He wanted to watch videos about life science topics and was persistent in asking questions,” said his mother, who was instrumental in recommending the Rutgers Summer Scholars program.
The course, called “Experimenting with Green Florescent Protein,” is a biochemistry instructional program for gifted and talented pre-college and college students. The program centers around green-fluorescent protein (GFP) and is taught by William Ward, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers-New Brunswick.
The west coast jellyfish that contain this fluorescent protein are exciting teaching tools in biochemistry and molecular biology. Cloning of GFP has enabled tracking of nerve cell proliferation, stem cell colonization, tissue regeneration, cancer metastasis and other processes central to biomedicine.
Read the full article at mycentraljersey.com
Debashish Bhattacharya's Research on Coral Reefs Featured
By the Rutgers Office of Communications
June 26, 2018
The research of Debashish Bhattacharya, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, is centered on how coral deals with environmental stress. The hope is that these findings can help inform protections for the population going forward. “We’ve done analysis of how higher temperatures and low pH levels impact the growth and physiology of the coral,” he says, “as well as how the entire coral animal itself deals with these conditions.”
By working with collaborators from the University of Hawaii, Bhattacharya has been able to attain samples of both resistant and vulnerable populations of coral that endured a bleaching event. “If you want to understand how they withstand stress and how they can do so going forward, we must look at the genome of the animal, the algae on it, and the bacteria that makes up the microbiome,” he explains. “We want to sequence the metagenomes of these samples and figure out which bacteria were present and which have confirmed resistance to stress. We also want to know how that microbiome changes during the stress period.”
Jeff Boyd Receives NSF Career Award Grant of $1,033,667
June 4, 2018
Associate Professor Jeff Boyd, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, has received a grant for $1,033,667 from the National Science Foundation for his project titled “CAREER: Iron-sulfur cluster assembly in Bacillus subtilis.” The NSF defines the CAREER award as “the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” The awarded grant covers a five-year period for the project which aims to 1) examine how the bacterium Bacillus subtilis builds inorganic cofactors called iron-sulfur (FeS) clusters and maintains proteins that require FeS clusters, and 2) use his research program as a platform to educate postdoctoral scholars, undergraduate and graduate students, and the public.
Jeff Boyd Promoted to Associate Professor and Receives $1,881,000 Grant
May 24, 2018
Associate Professor Jeff Boyd, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, has received a grant for $1,881,000 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for his project titled “Mechanisms of cellular respiration-dependent cell lysis and its impact on biofilm formation and disassembly in Staphylococcus aureus.” This grant covers a five-year period for the project which aims to examine the environmental signals and mechanisms that influence biofilm formation and biofilm dispersal in the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, a human pathogen.Read the full article
Peter Kahn Receives Clement A. Price Human Dignity Award
May 24, 2018
The criteria for the Award are embedded in Prof. Kahn’s activities over his 41 years of service at Rutgers. At every opportunity he weaves matters of human dignity into his teaching and his other activities. He not only feels compassion for students in need, but acts on their behalf, such as the Bosnian Student Project in which over a period of several years 17 students earned bachelor’s degrees, while an 18th earned her doctorate. Prof Kahn has played a central role in forging intercultural cooperation and collaboration and made major efforts in reducing prejudice and promoting respect for diversity. He sets an example of what it means to act upon a sense of social responsibility.
Ning Zhang Publishes Study on Crop Fungus in Scientific Reports
By Todd B. Bates
May 7, 2018
About 21 million years ago, a fungus that causes a devastating disease in rice first became harmful to the food that nourishes roughly half the world's population, according to an international study led by Rutgers University New Brunswick scientists.
The findings may help lead to different ways to fight or prevent crop and plant diseases, such as new fungicides and more effective quarantines.
Rice blast, the staple's most damaging fungal disease, destroys enough rice to feed 60 million people annually. Related fungal pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) also infect turfgrasses, causing summer patch and gray leaf spot that damage lawns and golf courses in New Jersey and elsewhere every summer. And now a new fungal disease found in wheat in Brazil has spread to other South American countries.
Results from the study published online in Scientific Reports may lead to better plant protection and enhanced national quarantine policies, said Ning Zhang, study lead author and associate professor in the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.Read the full story at Rutgers Today
Read the study in Scientific Reports
Debashish Bhattacharya's Research on Green Energy Published in Molucular Biology and Evolution
By Todd B. Bates
May 3, 2018
In an amazing achievement akin to adding solar panels to your body, a Northeast sea slug sucks raw materials from algae to provide its lifetime supply of solar-powered energy, according to a study by Rutgers University?New Brunswick and other scientists.
?It?s a remarkable feat because it?s highly unusual for an animal to behave like a plant and survive solely on photosynthesis,? said Debashish Bhattacharya, senior author of the study and distinguished professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers?New Brunswick. ?The broader implication is in the field of artificial photosynthesis. That is, if we can figure out how the slug maintains stolen, isolated plastids to fix carbon without the plant nucleus, then maybe we can also harness isolated plastids for eternity as green machines to create bioproducts or energy. The existing paradigm is that to make green energy, we need the plant or alga to run the photosynthetic organelle, but the slug shows us that this does not have to be the case.?Read the full story at Rutgers Today
Read the study in Molucular Biology and Evolution
Norberto J. Palleroni - In Memoriam
March 14, 2018
Norberto J. Palleroni passed away on March 5th 2018, at the age of 96. He was internationally recognized as an authority in bacterial taxonomy, particularly the genus Pseudomonas. His work on this genus culminated in the first demonstration of the power of ribosomal RNA homology experiments as a tool of general use in bacterial taxonomic and phylogenetic studies. This work stimulated research along similar lines on other microbial groups, resulting in the development of new approaches in the study of bacterial phylogeny. In addition, his early work on bacterial classification utilizing genomic DNA-DNA hybridization techniques initiated the exploration of the genome complexity of Pseudomonas and other bacterial taxa...Read the full obituary
Drs. Liping Zhao and Yan Yan Lam Publish in Science
Professor Liping Zhao and Assistant Research Professor Yan Yan Lam have published the findings from their six-year study on the effects of diet on gut bacteria in Science Magazine.
March 12, 2018
Abstract: "The gut microbiota benefits humans via short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production from carbohydrate fermentation, and deficiency in SCFA production is associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). We conducted a randomized clinical study of specifically designed isoenergetic diets, together with fecal shotgun metagenomics, to show that a select group of SCFA-producing strains was promoted by dietary fibers and that most other potential producers were either diminished or unchanged in patients with T2DM. When the fiber-promoted SCFA producers were present in greater diversity and abundance, participants had better improvement in hemoglobin A1c levels, partly via increased glucagon-like peptide-1 production. Promotion of these positive responders diminished producers of metabolically detrimental compounds such as indole and hydrogen sulfide. Targeted restoration of these SCFA producers may present a novel ecological approach for managing T2DM."
Professor Maria Gloria Dominguez Bello Gives Keynote Speech at Rutgers' 2018 Microbiology Symposium
By Emily Hanselman
February 26, 2018
There is an emerging body of literature on the associations between urbanization, microbiome and human diseases. What are the changes that have occurred in our microbiome as our society has become more urban? How does urbanization affect the microbiome of infants, their development and long-term health? Using evidence from evolution, anthropology and microbiology, Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello addressed these questions in her keynote lecture at the 2018 Rutgers Microbiology Symposium on February 1st.
Dr. Dominguez-Bello discussed evidence that the diversity of human microbiota is reduced by urban life, which starts at birth. She unearthed the central roles that birth and the environment play in establishing the microbiota composition of an infant, including delivery method, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and, in older infants, exposure to microbes from the environment. Urbanization is accompanied by increased medical intervention at birth, more frequent antibiotic use, decreased breastfeeding and less skin-to-skin contact, as well as more sanitized indoor environments, which collectively reduce an infant's normal exposure to microbes.
Comparing maternal microbiota from various maternal body compartments to infant gut microbiota, Dr. Dominguez-Bello found that infants born via caesarean section had microbiota similar to that of maternal skin and had decreased diversity, while the microbiota of those born vaginally were similar to maternal vaginal microbiota with a higher level of diversity. Furthermore, mice delivered by C-section had increased weight gain and total body mass after weaning. In humans, C-section has been associated with increased risk of modern diseases, including asthma, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and obesity. To ameliorate these effects, the Dominguez-Bello laboratory has developed and tested interventions to restore a normal microbiota in infants after C-sections.
In addition to clinical interventions, Dr. Dominguez-Bello discussed the importance of an international initiative to preserve microbes from traditional peoples as our world rapidly urbanizes. A global microbiota vault located in a cold climate could preserve rare strains of bacteria for future research and clinical application.
Distinguished Professor Debashish Bhattacharya Appointed to National Academy of Sciences Committee Addressing Interventions to Increase the Resilience of Coral Reefs
February 6, 2018
On January 12, 2018 Prof. Debashish Bhattacharya of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology was appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to serve on the committee to discuss and report on strategic Interventions to Increase the Resilience of Coral Reefs. Prof. Bhattacharya?s lab studies coral genome evolution, population structure, and coral responses to abiotic stress, with the goal of identifying the ?genetic toolkit? used by these species to adapt to environmental fluctuations.
This committee has multiple tasks. These include to review the state of the art in ecological and genetic interventions that can be used to enhance recovery and persistence of coral reefs. The committee will consider scenarios and solutions that address the next 5-20 years which will see serious deterioration in the reef environment due to warming, more acidic waters. The committee will provide an environmental risk assessment and develop a decision pathway for implementation of potential interventions that includes knowledge gained from genetic, genomic, and ecological data. Two reports will result from this initiative.
The committee is chaired by Steven Palumbi, who is the Jane and Marshall Steel Professor in Marine Sciences and Senior Fellow with the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. According to the announcement by the Academies, the ?study is focused on the state-of-the-science of novel intervention strategies to identify and compare potential ecological risks and benefits.?
The committee will hold 5 meetings at different sites in the US, with the first scheduled for Washington DC on February 7-9, 2018.
Streptomyces griseus Proposed as New Jersey State Microbein support of the nomination of the streptomycin-producing microbe, Streptomyces griseus, as the State Microbe of New Jersey
July 7, 2017
Audio of NJ State Assembly hearing, Sept. 17, (at 27:10) feat. statements by Dr. John Warhol (28:33), Professor Emeritus Doug Eveleigh (32:40) and Assoc. Prof. Jeff Boyd (41:00).
NJ Senate votes unanimously to designate state microbe
Featured in NJ Spotlight!
In New Jersey we are proud of our state flower, the Common Meadow Violet (Viola sororia), and the state bird, the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Microbes are a major component of our soil['s ecology: Filamentous bacteria (Streptomyces) give the soil that wonderful earthy aroma (geosmin), they turn over organic materials to maintain soil fertility, and are also a major source of today?s antibiotics. Yet, we lack a state microbe.
To date, only Oregon has recognized a state microbe, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, yeast, the basis of brewing, in recognition of the state's many small craft breweries. Wisconsin and Hawaii are considering naming state microbes as well. The microbe Streptomyces griseus, discovered in New Jersey, has dramatically advanced world health and thus merits state recognition.
Streptomycin was discovered by Albert Schatz, Elizabeth Bugie and Selman Waksman in January of 1944. It was truly remarkable in the breadth of pathogens that it attacked, including Vibrio cholerae (cholera) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB), against both of which penicillin, the only other antibiotic at that time, had no effect. The discovery of streptomycin radically changed public health...
Peter Kahn Gives Baccalaureate Address to Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences 2017 Graduates
June 20, 2017
On May 15th, 2017, at SEBS convocation, Dr. Peter C. Kahn of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology gave the following address:
"It is not often that a scientist is asked to speak on matters outside his specialty. For the honor you have done me, therefore, in asking that I speak to you tonight I do thank you. The class of 1993 also asked me to speak to them for their Baccalaureate. When I reread that talk I realized with some updating it would apply more strongly now than it did then.
"When you leave here some days from now, you will have spent sixteen years or more in school. While many of you will go on to professional training, your formal academic education is complete. The rest of your education now begins. What do you take from here that will be of use 'out there?' And what will you find out there'?
"You all entered college with some appreciation for the natural world, an appreciation which has probably grown in your time here. You all know something of agriculture and the environment, and many of you know something of economics and other fields. A few - bless you - know a little biochemistry. If you reflect on what you know today, however, you'll realize you knew more about the subjects you studied when you studied them than you do now. Many of the specifics have already fled, and you are not even out the door! You might think to yourselves, 'If I had had better study habits or if I had worked harder, I might know more today.' There may be a few people in the room for whom that is true.... Even so, however good your habits and however hard you worked, much specific knowledge will have gone from you. It is the sort of knowledge which becomes engraved in the mind only if you use it regularly, and many of you will not have the need to do that, for your work and your lives will take you in other - and unexpected - directions..."
Costantino Vetriani's lab publishes work on microbial genomics in eLife
May 24, 2017
"Vetriani's lab first isolated the T. ammonificans bacterium from a black smoker hydrothermal vent chimney on the East Pacific Rise. It thrives in hot environments rich in volcanic gases such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. 'T. ammonificans is a modern organism that lives on the planet today, but in an environment that resembles conditions on early Earth,' said senior author Vetriani. 'We can assume that some of the genetic or metabolic traits that are present today, may have been inherited from an ancestor that lived on early Earth.'
"After realizing that T. ammonificans likely stemmed from a deep branch on the tree of life, Vetriani sequenced the genome with the help of the Joint Genome Institute. But it wasn't until Giovannelli joined Vetriani's lab that the group was able to use bioinformatics techniques to fully analyze that genome. The researchers combined comparative genomics approaches that draw evolutionary connections between T. ammonificans and related microbes, with physiological experiments, and proteomic analyses that look at all of the proteins expressed by the bacterium. Together, these techniques enabled the researchers to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the organism and determine its early metabolism."
Jeff Boyd's team publishes manuscript in eLife showing that oxygen is a signal for Staphylococcus aureus biofilm formation.
May 3, 2017
The pathogenic bacterium Staphylococcus aureus lives on the human body. Generally this bacterium co-exists with us peacefully, but sometimes certain bacteria may enter the body and cause infections. Many of these infections are thought to occur when the bacteria become able to form complex communities called biofilms. Bacteria living in a biofilm cooperate and make lifestyle choices as a community, so in this way, they behave like a single organism containing many cells. Mashruwala et al. recently published a paper in eLife showing that, when oxygen levels are low, S. aureus cells lyse themselves to increase biofilm formation. These findings could result in novel treatment to infections caused by biofilm producing bacteria.
Yana Bromberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, is the principal investigator of NSF CAREER Award: "Molecular functional diversity of microbes and microbiomes" totaling $1,091,177
Microbes dominate life on Earth. Evolutionary pressure exerted on microbial communities by environmental stressors such as climate change and pollution has global impact. Understanding the environment-specific microbial molecular functions is, therefore, a critical challenge. We propose to computationally analyze existing microbial genomic data using a new metric of whole organism molecular function similarity. Our function-based approach will offer a powerful new way of annotating the world's microbial functional diversity, allowing selection of environmentally optimized functionality. Applied to the influx of new "-omic" data our approach will offer a wealth of functional data to guide further experimental research. Our tools will be publicly accessible, providing a cheap, efficient, and accurate way to extract previously inaccessible meaning from the existing and newly sequenced microbial genomic data.
Ines Rauschenbach was chosen to be a mentor for the second year for the ASM Science Teaching Fellowship program.
"I have had the opportunity to participate in the Science Teaching Fellowship that is offered through ASM. I had applied for this program to increase my knowledge and practice in course design as well as creating learning outcomes and assessment projects. After the workshops, for the first time, I had finally understood how to write good learning outcomes and create meaningful activities and assessments. The support and feedback that I had received was meaningful and motivating. The program instilled confidence that I can change the way that we deliver the content of a course to a more student-centered approach. Working closely with my teaching assistants, we have now created an inquiry-based learning environment and assessment has shown that students are better able to apply and explain concepts present in the lab. The best part of the program is that you not only learn more about assessment, learning outcomes, and course design, you become part of a teaching community."
Yana Bromberg, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, SEBS, and Derek Gordon, Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics, SAS, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, are the principal investigators of an award totaling $1,475,896.
The project, titled AVA, Dx: Analysis of Variation for Association with Disease, is being supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Laura Elnitski, senior investigator of the Translational and Functional Genomics Branch and head of the Genomic Functional Analysis Section at the National Human Genome Research Institute, is a collaborator.