Many DOE JGI metagenomic projects focus on microbial communities in the guts of the cow, termite and even the desert locust, all known to break down plant biomass for energy. In studying these and other gut microbial communities, researchers hope to identify and isolate genes involved in plant biomass degradation, and apply them to biofuel production.
|Researchers compared the effects of diet on hoatzin gut microbial communities
Previous studies in humans, mice and cows have shown that the gut microbial communities can be heavily influenced by diet. To see if the same was true of the hoatzin (Amazonian stinkbird) gut microbial communities, a team of researchers led by DOE JGI postdoctoral fellow Filipa Godoy-Vitorino compared DNA samples from the crops of hoatzin birds collected in two Venezuelan states 300 miles apart.
As reported in this “first step toward understanding the underlying principles of community assembly,” published ahead online January 20, 2012 in Research in Microbiology, they used a G2 PhyloChip—a 16S rRNA microarray developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that can easily highlight differences in the microbial communities. They identified both common and rare microbial phyla, including bacteria known to be “cellulose degraders in the rumen of cows.”
Dr. Godoy-Vitorino was recently awarded a travel grant from the American Society for Microbiology. Under the Millis-Colwell Exchange Program for Early Career Scientists, she will attend the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian Society for Microbiology and visit former JGI scientist Phil Hugenholtz’s lab at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland.