Norwegian Centennial Chair (NOCC) Seed grant
Communities of microorganisms (microbiomes) are increasingly known to play a critical role in health and disease in human hosts, and also as part of environmental ecosystems. Sequencing the genetic material (DNA) from these microbial communities catalogs the different organisms making up these complex systems, and how this composition may change under different conditions (e.g. health versus disease in humans, introduction of pollutants within an environmental ecosystem etc.). However, DNA sequencing alone only provides a limited picture of the system. Consequently, researchers lack knowledge of how, at a detailed molecular level, microbiomes interact and respond to their surroundings.
This knowledge could lead to new breakthroughs for engineering microbiomes to help fight disease, clean‐up toxins in the environment, or produce environmentally friendly biofuels. To gain such knowledge, measurement of additional molecules encoded by the microbial DNA (e.g. RNA, proteins) is necessary. Fortunately, large‐scale data on the identify and abundance of RNA and protein can now be readily generated, but there is a lack of effective software that can analyze the data in an integrated fashion and help researchers make new discoveries.
To address this current bottleneck, we will establish a new trans‐Atlantic partnership between two highly complementary Minnesota and NMBU research teams. We will develop and optimize integrative analysis of large‐scale DNA, RNA and protein data within the Galaxy framework. We will disseminate the software, putting it in the hands of researchers who will use it to advance knowledge of microbiomes and how these complex communities may be used to improve human and environmental health.
Participating NMBU researchers
Timothy J. Griffin
University of Minnesota