New Gene Tools Help Predict Microbial Growth in the Subsurface


Environmental microbes modify their growth and activity in response to changing nutrients in largely unknown ways. This complicates the development and use of predictive models of microbial metabolism in the environment. New gene expression tools now enable researchers to determine whether microbes are actively taking up phosphate for growth or not. The new tools developed by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, the J. Craig Venter Institute and the University of California-Berkeley enables researchers to assess phosphate bioavailability from the microbe’s “point of view” and to use the information to calibrate and revise models of microbial growth in the environment and to directly test nutrient formulations for their bioavailability potential. These tools were tested during in situ field tests of uranium bioremediation and add to a growing set of tools advancing a predictive understanding of microbial communities in the environment. These new results were reported online at The ISME Journal (10 December 2009:1-14).