As is our custom, here is a listing of posts from the last half year, lightly annotated.
News and Views
In Memoriam of S. Marvin Friedman
We note with sadness the loss of our frequent contributor and esteemed fellow blogger.
Microbiology’s Crucial Role in First Response Humanitarian Aid
Microbiology student Noor Shakfeh relates her experience in a Syrian refugee camp and why small microbes can have big consequences.
If Microbes Could Tweet...
Co-blogger Daniel shares with us some of the shenanigans at a retreat of his Texas department. And here you thought that microbiologist don't have fun.
Four Resources and One Fiction
Daniel reviews four books on microbiology plus a work of fiction.
Cheesey Microbial Communities
Daniel reviews a book called "Cheese and Microbes" edited by Catherine Donnelly. Food for thought.
The Magasanik Paradox
Funny thing, the more important a finding, the shorter the time the name of its discoverer is remembered. Who quotes who found out that water is H2O? (It was Lavoisier, btw.)
STC Poll #2 - Vote for the technique that you think has most influenced your field
The results: First, electron cryotomography, second deep sequencing, third RNA-Seq, then a number of others.
Michael Goldberg, Thirty Years The ASM's Executive Director
Now that he has retired, the ASM has to figure out how to get along without such an towering figure at the helm.
Autoendoliths: The Architects of the Deep
Graduate student Jeffrey Marlow tells us that microbes inside rocks come in different flavors and defines a new one, the "autoendoliths". They build rocks deep down, feeding on methane.
Wood Digestion with Nary a Microbe in View
Shipworms have bored holes in the wooden hull of many a ship. But where do they digest the wood? In the intestine, you guess? Oddly, the wood-decomposing bacteria reside in the worm's gills! But the enzymes they make do travel to the intestine.
The Most Abundant Small Things Considered
Merry and Gemma visit Pelagibacter ubique, aka SAR 11, thought to be the most abundant organism in the oceans if not on Earth, tiny though it and its genome may be. Fascination extends to its phages.
Noncoding DNA and Bacterial Evolution
Marvin delves into the question: "Can regulatory genes also be transferred horizontally?" The answer is yes, and how! In one study, some 32% of promoters acquired in E. coli were so. This allows exploring mutational space while maintaining essential structural genes.
Making Mutants — And Watching Them "In the Making"
Christoph delves into the thorny subject of directed mutations and discussed experiments done with microfluidic chambers that define the population size and geometry.
"S" is for Self
Elie and Rachel Diner introduce us to a novel system of restriction/modification where a sulfur substitutes for a phosphate in the DNA. Among other things, this explains why some of your DNA gels look so sad.
Polintons — A Viral Missing Link?
Jamie explains that the crazy quilt of viruses and mobile genetic elements can be understood, at least in part. Meet DNA transposons called "politons", which are "an intriguing patchwork of virus-like and transposon-like genes".
Lively Reading for Our Phage World
Forest Rohwer and Merry produced a stunning book on phages. Everything about it is original. Go look and see for yourself and prepare to be transported into the magic world of phages.
A Talmudic Conversation
We asked if anyone knows of phages that affect eukaryotic cells or their organelles. This led to a lively discussion.
The Awesomest Thing in Biology
Elio goes nearly gaga over the fact that certain dinoflagellates have a structure that looks and acts just like an eye! In a unicellular organism no less!!!
Super Mario, Super Sonic, Paramecium!
Blog from Cairo University called "Micro Writers"
Let's Not Forget Acetabularia
In the old days, this little alga was a model for the study of the role of the nucleus, the reason being that though unicellular, it can be easily cut into pieces that can be exchanged between individuals. Worth remembering.
An Aromatic Snippet
Ah, the aroma of a good wine! Some of the compounds that go into making it also attract fruit flies, which then carry the yeast to new sites. Everybody wins!
The Power of Fungal Genetics — Cassava for Food Security and Sustainability in Colombia
Chris Condayan, our ASM advocate, reports on an article in the ASM-sponsored journal Cultures describing attempts to improve the mycorrhizal relationship of that most useful of food plants, cassava. Find out more about this youth-inspired journal here.
Symbiosis, Parasitism, and Microbial Communication
The Good, the Bad and the Future: Symbiosis and Sustainability in Corals
Graduate student Antonia Darragh tells us of a three way symbiosis between corals, cyanobacteria, and a shrimp. Yes, it takes three to tango.
Oddly Microbial: Honey Bee Gut Microbiomes — Queen vs. Workers
Frequent contributor science writer Marcy Stone tells us that the microbiomes of queen and workers bees are quite distinct. Consuming royal jelly may be the reason why.
When Antibiotic Resistance in vitro Does Not Tell You What You Need To Know
Terry Roemer discusses how clinical isolates of E. coli show less resistance to mecillinam than lab strains. This is good news for the clinician but not so good for the seeker of new antibiotics, being that in vitro measurements may lead to the discarding of promising drugs.
Evolution of a Superpathogen
Marvin considers why the plague bacillus has become so flea-friendly. It has to do with losing the ability to utilize urea, which would make the fleas ill, likely by making ammonia.
No Free Lunch for Cheaters
Marvin's last post on STC deals with the way a bacterial population handles ill-behaved moochers that take advantage of their brethren. The policing cells use cyanide to keep the cheaters in check.
Cornell grad student Kalia Bistolas explain that hydrocarbon-degrading marine bacteria make biosurfactants that not only emulsify oil slicks and the likes but also sequester quorum sensing signal molecules, thus disturb intracellular communication between competing organisms.
Structure and Function
The Archaellum — The Motility Structure of Archaea
"Archaeologists" Verena Alberts and Jarrell present their studies on the archaeal flagellum, which differs in so many ways from their bacterial counterparts as to merit its own name, the "archaellum". These are simple structures that resemble Type IV pili, have glycosylated proteins, and rotate using ATP for energy, (not the protonmotive force).
A Snippet. How Do Long Bacteria Snip Apart?
Some bacterial ectosymbionts of marine worms grow long and longer. Surprisingly perhaps, they all divide in the very middle regardless of their length. How come? The message still lies hidden.
Three Roads to Cellular Compartments
Merry delights in finding uses for parts of phages and here proposes that some of the small protein-bounded structures within bacteria called nanocompartments may derive their shells from phage capsids. But not before discussing other types of cellular compartmentalization.
The Attraction of Magnetotactic Bacteria
Daniel likens the flagellar bundles of a magnetotactic bacterium to the filaments of skeletal muscles. Moving fast, which this arrangement permits, may reflect the startling finding that under some conditions, the magnetic field becomes essential to these bacteria.
Small Size Holds Sway
In the old days, bacteria were supposed to be retained by 0.2 μm filters. Not anymore, if you look at groundwater samples. These are perhaps the smallest cells possible.
On Lanthanum & Co
Rare earths are indispensable for making many of our cherished gadgets, such as computers, cameras, and jet fighters. They are expensive. Microbes to the rescue perhaps, as some can concentrate these metals. And a few others even require them for their metabolism.
Pictures Considered #22. ¡Viva La Resolución!
STED microscopy and other wonders.
Pictures Considered #23. What Grains Tell...
Bidirectional replication in front of your eyes.
Pictures Considered #24. Ostreococcus tauri, the Smallest Known Eukaryote
Is 0.8 µm small enough?
Pictures Considered #25. Getting A Ride
Candida hyphae fleeing a host cell carry staph cells along.
Pictures Considered #26. Rolling-Circle Replication
A radioautograph shows it in its full splendor.