Monday, May 30, 2011

Report from the BAGECO Conference

Since yesterday, I am hanging out on the Ionnian island of Corfu in Greece, to take part in the BActerial Genetics and ECOlogy conference (BAGECO; not to be confused by Bagheera). I'm very impressed by the quality of the talks and research presented so far. Compared to the last microbiology conference I went to (ISME 2009 in Australia), lots of people are taking advantage of "next-generation" sequencing technologiey and other relatively new, cost-efficient molecular techniques, like custom microarrays (Geochips) and proteomics. The buzzword (or "buzzphrazse") is clearly "integrated -omics approach", which usually means to combine metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, metaproteomics and metabolomics (i.e. sequencing of genomic DNA, reverse-transcribed RNA, MS-based proteomic analysis and screening for metabolic products.) I don't know if I like the term "integrated -omics" since it is not very descriptive; "Integrated analysis" or something would be better, but that is another topic, perhaps for Johnatan Eisen to discuss on his very entertaining "Worst omics word award" section of his blog. Anyway, the combination is really useful and can provide a more holistic picture of microbial communities. Some examples of really interesting talks:

- Maria Westerholm, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences: "Molecular Approaches to detect and quantify syntrophic acetate-oxisizing bacteria in biogas digesters". Very clever study to improve the efficency of metanotrophic biogas reactors.

- Giovanni Pilloni from the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Health in Germany: "Degrader community response to hydraulic disturbance in a tar-oil contaminated aquifier". Cleverly, TFRLP fingerprinting with replication was used to confirm the predictions made using pyrosequencing.

- Pedro Soares-Castro, from the University of Minho, Portugal: "Towards the metabolomic engineering of myrcene pathway of Pseudomonas sp. M1 using an integrated -omic approach". Genome sequencing, transcriptomics and metabolomics combined in a clever way.

- Gavin Lear, from the Lincoln University in New Zealand: "Bacteria as sentinels of freshwater ecological health: An exploration of the relationships between antropogenic impacts and bacterial biodiversity in freshwater streams".

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