To isolate an uncultured microbe of interest, researchers can examine available sequence data to find likely cell-surface proteins—based on homology with known proteins in other microbes (1), and select a peptide region as unique to the desired organism as possible (2). This peptide is then used to generate antibodies in rabbits, (3) and the antibodies are labeled with a fluorescent tag (4). Next, researchers add the labeled antibodies to the microbial sample (5), and use flow cytometry to isolate those that bind (6). The isolated bacteria can then be sequenced, characterized, and ideally, cultured.


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Ruth Williams is a freelance journalist based in Connecticut. Email her at or find her on Twitter @rooph.

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