A new Keck Foundation grant to University of Chicago leverages the research strength of the Microbiome Center, which connects researchers across UChicago’s Biological Sciences Division, Marine Biological Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory. As part of this grant, MBL scientists Mitchell Sogin and Jessica Mark Welch will run a proof-of-concept project to study transfer RNA in the human mouth microbiome. MBL Fellow A. Murat Eren will develop a version of his software platform anvi’o, which helps scientists visualize metagenomic data, to analyze transfer RNA molecules.
By Matt Wood
University of Chicago researchers have received a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation to study how the molecular activity of the microbiome changes in response to the environment.
The research will develop and validate tools to study transfer RNA (tRNA), a molecular Rosetta Stone that translates the genetic information encoded in DNA into proteins that perform basic biological functions. New sequencing technology and bioinformatics software will help scientists analyze the activity of bacteria in the microbiome of various settings and how they respond over time to changes in their environment, such as availability of nutrients or competition from other microbes.
“To understand how microbes in the human gut affect health, for example, we have to know what they are doing and there aren’t good tools for that yet,” said Eugene B. Chang, MD, the Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine at UChicago and one of four investigators leading the project. “These new tools will be so transformative because they will allow us to see the dynamics of microbial communities and how they communicate and affect each other instead of just taking snapshots of what is there.” Read more …
Image: Darryl Leja, NHGRI.