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Publications of the Week

Metagenomics Reveals Functional Synergy and Novel Polysaccharide Utilization Loci in the Castor canadensis Fecal Microbiome

By July 30, 2018August 7th, 2018No Comments

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 This week we profile a recent publication in the ISME Journal from Dr. Steven Hallam (pictured) at the UBC Life Sciences Institute.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

My lab uses a combination of field, laboratory and computational methods to chart the metabolic capacity of uncultivated microbial communities in natural and engineered ecosystems. We are currently focused on microbial communities inhabiting oxygen-starved waters of the north-eastern subarctic Pacific, waste water treatment plants, hydrocarbon resource environments and other ecosystems implicated in the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass such as the beaver digestive system.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

With respect to the beaver paper, the primary take away I think is that the beaver microbiome encodes a diverse repertoire of enzymes that break down lignocellulosic biomass. These enzymes work synergistically to increase the efficiency of biomass conversion and promote host nutrition. By collaborating with the Wither’s lab we were able to combine high-throughput functional metagenomics with in-depth biochemical characterization of recovered enzymes highlighting the importance of multi-dicsiplinarity in developing and implementing effective screening paradigms.

What are the next steps for this research?

We have expanded our analysis of the beaver microbiome to include the entire gastrointestinal tract to look for compartmentalization of function incorporating RNA-seq and functional screening to validate gene prediction models and differentiate between metabolic potential and active gene expression.

This research was funded by:

This work was performed under the auspices of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, Genome British Columbia, Genome Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

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