Monday, March 15, 2010

Surveying the gut microbiota, cross dressing chickens and more, in my Picks of the Week, from RB

Another week has gone by and some very interesting molbio blog posts have been aggregated to Every week [see my opening post on the matter], I'll select some blog posts I consider particularly interesting in the field of molecular biology [see here to get a sense of the criteria that will be used], briefly describe them and list them here for you to check out.

Note that I'm only taking into consideration the molbio-related blog posts aggregated under "Biology".

Congratulations to everyone who got their post selected.

It has been estimated that the number of microorganisms in our body exceeds the number of human cells by a factor of ~10. The vast majority of these microbes reside in our gut. With the ultimate goal of “understanding and exploiting the impact of the gut microbes on human health and well-being” and to get a broader overview of the human gut microbial genes, a huge Illumina-based metagenomic approach has recently been published in Nature, reporting “3.3 million non-redundant microbial genes, derived from 576.7 gigabases of sequence, from faecal samples of 124 European individuals”.

Geek! discusses some of the fascinating results derived from this study.

This huge microbial community has a profound influence on our metabolism and nutrition and its alteration may be associated with a number of diseases. Tim Sampson at The Times Microbial discusses a fascinating new article reporting that mice deficient in Toll-like Receptor 5 (a component of the innate immune system expressed in the gut mucosa), develop “hallmark features of metabolic syndrome, including hyperlipidemia, hypertension, insulin resistance, and increased adiposity”. Notably, these alterations are correlated with changes in the composition of the gut microbiota and… (wait for it…)

“transfer of the gut microbiota from TLR5-deficient mice to wild-type germ-free mice conferred many features of metabolic syndrome to the recipients”.
How cool is that?

OK, enough with microorganisms. GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted), brings us a fascinating post discussing in detail a recent article in which the authors examined three lateral gynandromorph chickens (a rare, naturally occurring phenomenon in which one side of the animal appears male and the other female -see image-) to investigate the sex-determining mechanism in birds. It seems that the underlying mechanism differs greatly from its mammalian counterpart.

Image of gynandromorph bird (Image credit)

And for the grand finale, human genomics!

Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future comments on two recent papers representing the first ever studies to “employ whole-genome sequencing for disease gene discovery”.

Daniel comments on the importance of these papers for clinical genetics, but also raises an interesting issue regarding personal genomics:

“The key message here is that sequencing technology is still moving far faster than our ability to interpret the resulting data.”

That's it for this week. Stay tuned for more MolBio Research Highlights!

ResearchBlogging.orgSome of the articles discussed in this week's selected posts:

Qin, J., Li, R., Raes, J., Arumugam, M., Burgdorf, K., Manichanh, C., Nielsen, T., Pons, N., Levenez, F., Yamada, T., Mende, D., Li, J., Xu, J., Li, S., Li, D., Cao, J., Wang, B., Liang, H., Zheng, H., Xie, Y., Tap, J., Lepage, P., Bertalan, M., Batto, J., Hansen, T., Le Paslier, D., Linneberg, A., Nielsen, H., Pelletier, E., Renault, P., Sicheritz-Ponten, T., Turner, K., Zhu, H., Yu, C., Li, S., Jian, M., Zhou, Y., Li, Y., Zhang, X., Li, S., Qin, N., Yang, H., Wang, J., Brunak, S., Doré, J., Guarner, F., Kristiansen, K., Pedersen, O., Parkhill, J., Weissenbach, J., Antolin, M., Artiguenave, F., Blottiere, H., Borruel, N., Bruls, T., Casellas, F., Chervaux, C., Cultrone, A., Delorme, C., Denariaz, G., Dervyn, R., Forte, M., Friss, C., van de Guchte, M., Guedon, E., Haimet, F., Jamet, A., Juste, C., Kaci, G., Kleerebezem, M., Knol, J., Kristensen, M., Layec, S., Le Roux, K., Leclerc, M., Maguin, E., Melo Minardi, R., Oozeer, R., Rescigno, M., Sanchez, N., Tims, S., Torrejon, T., Varela, E., de Vos, W., Winogradsky, Y., Zoetendal, E., Bork, P., Ehrlich, S., & Wang, J. (2010). A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing Nature, 464 (7285), 59-65 DOI: 10.1038/nature08821

Vijay-Kumar, M., Aitken, J., Carvalho, F., Cullender, T., Mwangi, S., Srinivasan, S., Sitaraman, S., Knight, R., Ley, R., & Gewirtz, A. (2010). Metabolic Syndrome and Altered Gut Microbiota in Mice Lacking Toll-Like Receptor 5 Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1179721

Zhao, D., McBride, D., Nandi, S., McQueen, H., McGrew, M., Hocking, P., Lewis, P., Sang, H., & Clinton, M. (2010). Somatic sex identity is cell autonomous in the chicken Nature, 464 (7286), 237-242 DOI: 10.1038/nature08852

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