APR 21, 2017 7:19 PM PDT

Modulating Gene Expression in the Microbiome

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Researchers have collected enough evidence to know that the community of microbes that resides in out gastrointestinal tract, the gut microbiome, has a major impact on human health. These bacterial communities have genomic material of their own that is far more plentiful than our own genetic material. While we can assay what bacterial species are living in guts based on genetic sequencing, that huge amount of material can interfere with precise investigations of exactly what effects the microbiome has on a variety of disorders such as obesity, autoimmune and infectious diseases, or behavioral issues.

To address that problem, investigators at Yale University have created new techniques for manipulating gene expression in a wide array of bacterial species that can reside in the microbiome. This could be a crucial breakthrough in understanding the influence and effects of gut microbes. The findings have been reported in Cell, and are outlined in the above video.

“We and others have been frustrated with the clumsy tools available for studying the microbiome — it felt like trying to perform surgery with boxing gloves,” explained the senior author of the report, Andrew Goodman, an Associate Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the Microbial Sciences Institute at West Campus. “We hope these new methods replace the boxing gloves with a scalpel.”

Related: Study Shows how a Modified Microbiome Causes Obesity

A research team that included first author Bentley Lim, as well as Michael Zimmermann and Natasha Barry of the Goodman lab, developed a “dimmer switch” that can control gene expression in the most common family of bacteria that lives in the human gut, Bacteroides. The researchers have utilized a synthetic chemical that is not present in mice or in their normal diet. Incredibly, the presence of this chemical can turn gene expression up or down or even off. Just by adding or removing this molecule from the drinking water of mice, the research team was able to monitor gene activity in the gastrointestinal tracts of live mice, in real time.

The scientists tested their tools, aiming to investigate how pathogens take advantage of sugars that have been stripped from the wall of the gut as bacteria scavenge for food. They were able to determine how long the pathogens could use those leftover energy sources. Their data can help explain how it’s possible for antibiotics to actually increase the amount of those sugars that are available to pathogens; it may also aid in creating more effective treatments for combating infectious diseases.

“We can now study bacterial communities in various states and pinpoint specific genes and pathways involved in a variety of functions,” Lim said. “If we are to find ways to intervene in these processes, we must first understand them at this level.”

 

Sources: Yale News, Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 17, 2020
Microbiology
Ingestible Bacteria-Catcher Could Act as a Diagnostic Tool
AUG 17, 2020
Ingestible Bacteria-Catcher Could Act as a Diagnostic Tool
Microbes in our gastrointestinal tract may not only be closely linked to our health, but they may also be useful as a di ...
SEP 02, 2020
Immunology
Alarmins: The Immune "Gold" in Breast Milk
SEP 02, 2020
Alarmins: The Immune "Gold" in Breast Milk
We know that infants fed with breast milk develop more robust immune systems as a result of factors that support the nat ...
SEP 23, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How Heparan Sulfate Helps SARS-CoV-2 Enter Cells
SEP 23, 2020
How Heparan Sulfate Helps SARS-CoV-2 Enter Cells
In order to infect a cell, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has to find a way in. It can use receptors on the surface of cells that ...
OCT 04, 2020
Microbiology
A Virus Can Disrupt a Carb-Consuming Gut Microbe
OCT 04, 2020
A Virus Can Disrupt a Carb-Consuming Gut Microbe
Not all viruses affect animal cells; some viruses can infect bacteria. Humans are known to carry vast numbers of microor ...
NOV 01, 2020
Microbiology
SARS-CoV-2 Disrupts the Blood Brain Barrier
NOV 01, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Disrupts the Blood Brain Barrier
SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 has to get into cells to cause infection. It does so with a spike protein on its surfa ...
NOV 08, 2020
Microbiology
Seasonal Illness - Is the Sun Involved?
NOV 08, 2020
Seasonal Illness - Is the Sun Involved?
There is a cold and flu season, and many researchers have tried to explain why the viruses that cause these illnesses te ...
Loading Comments...