Over 99% of the Earth’s microorganisms cannot be cultivated in laboratory, making their ecological roles, biochemistry and potential practical applications an unresolved mystery. The cutting-edge approach to tackle this enigma, originally developed for the human genome sequencing project, has been sequencing large quantities of short sections of DNA from the extracts of entire microbial communities, and then assembling these sections back into individual genomes by computational means.
Unfortunately, the diversity of natural microbial communities proved so incredibly high, that very few genomes could be assembled from even the largest metagenomic studies, consisting of millions of DNA sequences.
In a paper published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Drs. Stepanauskas and Sieracki from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences propose an alternative to the metagenomic research.
The new method is based on fluorescence-activated sorting, whole genome amplification, and multi-locus DNA sequencing of single cells. This allows us to sequence any number of genes in each cell, including those that reveal cell’s identity and those that tell us what biochemical reactions the cell is capable of performing”, said Dr. Stepanauskas.
The publication “Matching phylogeny and metabolism in the uncultured marine bacteria, one cell at a time,” is a result of the researchers’ collaboration,
The paper is available online at: PNAS