Study offers model to predict how microbiomes may respond to change

Study offers model to predict how microbiomes may respond to change
A few grams of soil may contain tens or even hundreds of thousands of microbial species that are largely responsible for the processing of nutrients and carbon. Credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

Scientists studying microbiomes have created a framework for predicting how the composition of these complex microbial communities may respond to changing conditions.

The review study, led by Jennifer Martiny, of ecology & evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine, appears in the Nov. 5 issue of Science. It presents a far-reaching assessment of microbiomes that could affect efforts to improve human health and the health of all the Earth's ecosystems.

Microbiomes are collections of microscopic organisms - such as bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi, protozoa, algae and plankton - that inhabit ecosystems as varied as the human digestive tract, the ocean and soil. For instance, the 100 trillion microbes in the human gut - which vastly outnumber the "human" cells in our bodies - are critical to our health and development.

A few grams of soil or sediment may contain tens or even hundreds of thousands of microbial species, each interacting with the others. Together, they are largely responsible for the processing of nutrients and carbon in soil - regulating the decomposition of waste materials, the regeneration of soil fertility and greenhouse gas emissions.

The study delves into microbial evolutionary processes and explores previous research showing that microbial traits - particularly with bacteria - vary predictably in how they have evolved across the "tree of life." For example, some traits, such as photosynthesis, evolved a long time ago and are shared by large groups of genetically related bacteria. Other traits, such as sensitivity to a particular virus, have evolved many times in many small groups.

Martiny said that analysis of these earlier studies, along with her own work on soil microbial communities, suggested a way to forecast how changes in climate or diet, for instance, might affect ecosystems or the digestive tract. Patterns of microbiome diversity among samples can reveal more information than previously thought when paired with the evolutionary history of microbial traits. Microbiologists could use this information to narrow down the reasons for differences in microbiome diversity among many samples.

Recently, microbiome studies have sparked much public interest. Last week, leading scientists in the field called for the creation of a major federal initiative to better understand microbial communities involved with ecosystem and human health.

The planet hosts a vast variety of , from those in undersea volcanos and plant ecosystems to untold numbers of microbes in the human body that fight disease. These microbiomes share many similar traits, and further research on them could reveal basic information about the Earth and its inhabitants.

Martiny added that her study offers just one pathway toward a more integrated grasp of microbiomes across all environments. "In addition to new technologies, we're in desperate need of new conceptual models to help us understand these complex communities," she said. "We already have a lot of data about microbiomes that could be put to further use."


Explore further

Scientists call for ambitious program to unlock the power of Earth's microbial communities

Journal information: Science

Citation: Study offers model to predict how microbiomes may respond to change (2015, November 5) retrieved 22 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-11-microbiomes.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
357 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

JVK
Nov 05, 2015
Excerpt: "Microbiomes are collections of microscopic organisms - such as bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi, protozoa, algae and plankton - that inhabit ecosystems as varied as the human digestive tract, the ocean and soil."

It may be important to note that serious scientists have linked atoms to ecosystems via microRNAs and cell adhesion proteins. Nutrient-dependent microRNAs protect organized genomes from virus-driven genomic entropy via the conserved molecular mechanisms that link metabolic networks to genetic networks in species from microbes to humans.

All the links from nutrient-dependent RNA-mediated events to organized genomes are consistent with what has been learned about biophysically constrained protein folding chemistry and cell type differentiation during the past several decades.


Nov 05, 2015
It is important to note JVK is a young earth creationist.

JVK
Nov 05, 2015
Why is that important to note?

It is more important to note that Steven Taylor (aka Vietvet) is a biologically uninformed science idiot. That's why he fails to address the information that links microRNAs and adhesion proteins to supercoiled DNA, which protects organized genomes from virus-driven genomic entropy.

He knows that phys.org won't let me link to the creationist literature that supports my claims -- until after Dr. Ben Carson becomes the next President of the USA.

Nov 05, 2015
Why is that important to note?

He knows that phys.org won't let me link to the creationist literature that supports my claims -- until after Dr. Ben Carson becomes the next President of the USA.
not even then, because there is no science in creationism

there is no science or scientific context for creationism or it's beliefs becuase it is a religion, not science

https://en.wikipe...Arkansas

Nov 05, 2015
Ben Carson will flame out like two previous front runners, Mike Hucklbee and Rick Santorum.
Carson will do well early with his evangelical base and in the remote chance he wins the nomination it will be a replay of the slaughter of 1964. Extremists don't win general elections.
Nor do idiots that double down on believing the pyramids were built as graineries.

JVK
Nov 06, 2015
If the pyramids stored a grain that contained an amino acid profile similar to that of the quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.), the stability of the organized genomes in the population(s) that survived would have been better ensured by the nutrient-dependent base pair changes that link RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions to the physiology of reproduction.

Facts like that have been distorted by neo-Darwinists who failed to link the consumption of fermented milk products and grains to the survival of populations in areas where malaria still is endemic.

Instead, evolutionary theorists claim that the survival of those populations was due to a mutation in the hemoglobin gene that linked sickle cell hemoglobin to survival. For comparison, vitamin D links atoms to ecosystems via base pair changes and amino acid substitutions in all human populations regardless of which of the 1180 other hemoglobin variants predominates.

JVK
Nov 06, 2015
Carson need not explain his beliefs to neo-Darwinian theorists. He need only ask them to explain the re-evolution of the bacterial flagellum over-the-weekend to cinch the nomination and proceed to win the election by exposing the overwhelming amount of pseudoscientific nonsense that has been accepted by biologically uninformed science idiots. The idiots are the extremists and all serious scientists know that -- as well as most people who are not biologically uninformed science idiots.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more