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1.  Community genomic analysis of an extremely acidophilic sulfur-oxidizing biofilm 
The ISME Journal  2011;6(1):158-170.
Highly acidic (pH 0–1) biofilms, known as ‘snottites', form on the walls and ceilings of hydrogen sulfide-rich caves. We investigated the population structure, physiology and biogeochemistry of these biofilms using metagenomics, rRNA methods and lipid geochemistry. Snottites from the Frasassi cave system (Italy) are dominated (>70% of cells) by Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans, with smaller populations including an archaeon in the uncultivated ‘G-plasma' clade of Thermoplasmatales (>15%) and a bacterium in the Acidimicrobiaceae family (>5%). Based on metagenomic evidence, the Acidithiobacillus population is autotrophic (ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (RuBisCO), carboxysomes) and oxidizes sulfur by the sulfide–quinone reductase and sox pathways. No reads matching nitrogen fixation genes were detected in the metagenome, whereas multiple matches to nitrogen assimilation functions are present, consistent with geochemical evidence, that fixed nitrogen is available in the snottite environment to support autotrophic growth. Evidence for adaptations to extreme acidity include Acidithiobacillus sequences for cation transporters and hopanoid synthesis, and direct measurements of hopanoid membrane lipids. Based on combined metagenomic, molecular and geochemical evidence, we suggest that Acidithiobacillus is the snottite architect and main primary producer, and that snottite morphology and distributions in the cave environment are directly related to the supply of C, N and energy substrates from the cave atmosphere.
doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.75
PMCID: PMC3246232  PMID: 21716305
Acidimicrobium; acidophile; Acidithiobacillus; metagenomics; pyrosequencing; Thermoplasmatales
2.  Quantitative Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization Analysis of Microbial Consortia from a Biogenic Gas Field in Alaska's Cook Inlet Basin 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2012;78(10):3599-3605.
Filter-collected production water samples from a methane-rich gas field in the Cook Inlet basin of Alaska were investigated using whole-cell rRNA-targeted fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and 16S rRNA tag pyrosequencing. Both techniques were consistent in determining the microbial community composition, including the archaeal or bacterial dominance of samples. The archaeal community is dominated by the obligate methylotrophic methanogen genus Methanolobus as well as the nutritional generalist methanogen genus Methanosarcina, which is capable of utilizing acetate, CO2, and methyl-bearing compounds. The most-abundant bacterial groups are Firmicutes, notably of the Acetobacterium genus, and Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides species (CFBs) affiliated with the order Bacteroidales. We observed spatial variation among samples in both the percentage of members of Archaea compared to that of members of Bacteria and the dominant members of the bacterial community, differences which could not be explained with the available geochemical data. Based upon the microbial community composition and the isotopic signature of methane associated with the Cook Inlet basin site, we propose a simplified reaction network beginning with the breakdown of coal macromolecules, followed by fermentation and methylotrophic and acetoclastic methane production.
doi:10.1128/AEM.07122-11
PMCID: PMC3346356  PMID: 22427501
4.  Activating and deactivating mutations in the receptor interaction site of GDF5 cause symphalangism or brachydactyly type A2 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(9):2373-2381.
Here we describe 2 mutations in growth and differentiation factor 5 (GDF5) that alter receptor-binding affinities. They cause brachydactyly type A2 (L441P) and symphalangism (R438L), conditions previously associated with mutations in the GDF5 receptor bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 1b (BMPR1B) and the BMP antagonist NOGGIN, respectively. We expressed the mutant proteins in limb bud micromass culture and treated ATDC5 and C2C12 cells with recombinant GDF5. Our results indicated that the L441P mutant is almost inactive. The R438L mutant, in contrast, showed increased biological activity when compared with WT GDF5. Biosensor interaction analyses revealed loss of binding to BMPR1A and BMPR1B ectodomains for the L441P mutant, whereas the R438L mutant showed normal binding to BMPR1B but increased binding to BMPR1A, the receptor normally activated by BMP2. The binding to NOGGIN was normal for both mutants. Thus, the brachydactyly type A2 phenotype (L441P) is caused by inhibition of the ligand-receptor interaction, whereas the symphalangism phenotype (R438L) is caused by a loss of receptor-binding specificity, resulting in a gain of function by the acquisition of BMP2-like properties. The presented experiments have identified some of the main determinants of GDF5 receptor-binding specificity in vivo and open new prospects for generating antagonists and superagonists of GDF5.
doi:10.1172/JCI25118
PMCID: PMC1190374  PMID: 16127465

Results 1-4 (4)