Metagenomics probes a gutless wonder

The last week has seen the appearance of two interesting reports on the use of linkurl:metagenomics;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23800/ to probe the biology of microbial communities ? reports that demonstrate the emerging power of this technique to untangle metabolic mysteries in organisms that cannot be grown in the lab. The first, linkurl:published Sept. 17;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature05192.html in __Nature__, involves the annelid worm, __Olav

Jeff Perkel
Sep 24, 2006
The last week has seen the appearance of two interesting reports on the use of linkurl:metagenomics;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23800/ to probe the biology of microbial communities ? reports that demonstrate the emerging power of this technique to untangle metabolic mysteries in organisms that cannot be grown in the lab. The first, linkurl:published Sept. 17;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature05192.html in __Nature__, involves the annelid worm, __Olavius algarvensis__. __O. algarvensis__ has neither mouth, gut, nor anus, and instead relies upon a series of obligate bacterial endosymbionts for its existence. Ed Rubin of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), and Nicole Dubilier at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany, identified and sequenced four cosymbionts, using metagenomics to demonstrate how these organisms interact with each other, and with their host. Sequence analysis identifies the four cosymbionts as members of either the gamma- or delta-proteobacteria, and their genetic complements belie their biochemistry. Sequence homology suggests, for instance, these two...

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