Diversity, Dynamics and Defense in Microbial Communities

Diversity, Dynamics and Defense in Microbial Communities

January 13, 2020


727 E. Tyler St.
Tempe, AZ 85281


Biodesign Institute, Auditorium

Date and Time

January 16, 2020, 1:30 pm (Length: 1 hour 0 minutes)

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Devaki Bhaya, PhD, Program Director, Systems and Synthetic Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, National Science Foundation

Cyanobacteria are an ancient group of photosynthetic microbes that thrive in some of the harshest environments on our planet. They can adapt to multiple stressors including extremes of temperature, prolonged exposure to high light and nutrient-poor habitats. For several years, my group has focused on microbial mats of extremophile communities that form stratified biofilms in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Early research demonstrated that 16S rRNA diversity correlated with environmental gradients of temperature and light, with cyanobacteria growing at temperatures up to 72ºC. To develop a molecular understanding of adaptation, we took several omics-based approaches. For instance, comparative genomics of two Synechococcus isolates that dominate at different temperatures in the mats combined with metagenomic analyses has provided key insights into metabolic diversity, novel functionalities and the fluidity of the genomic fabric of microbial communities. Recent analyses of metagenomic data in combination with deep amplicon sequencing from these communities have revealed an unexpectedly high degree of genetic micro-diversity. Part of this diversity reflects the need of cyanobacteria in these densely-packed biofilms to defend themselves against cyanophage and participate in a ‘diversification battle’ that highlights the dynamic co-evolution observed in host and phage populations. I’ll present evidence that these moderately complex communities are ideally suited to probing how physical forces and chemical gradients in combination with genetic diversity continuously shape spatially structured microbial communities. Building synthetic communities, using new tools of synthetic biology and microfluidics may help us model complex interactions and establish rules that guide community structure, dynamics and evolution.

Hosted by Biodesign Center for Fundamental and Applied Microbiomics.