Medical Research

University of Chicago

Tao Pan, Murat Eren, Eugene Chang, Mitchell Sogin
Chicago, IL
$1,000,000
June 2018

Genomics-enabled microbiome science has revealed amazing snapshots of globally distributed taxonomic and metabolic diversity, yet current molecular technologies do not describe the dynamic response of microbiomes to environmental shifts.  Biological systems generally respond to environmental flux via regulated protein synthesis where transfer RNA (tRNA) serves a key role in decoding genetic information on-demand.  These adapter molecules also undergo posttranscriptional, chemical modifications that add distinct regulatory aspects in decoding as well as reflect levels of microbial metabolic activity.  A multidisciplinary team of investigators propose a transformative approach that utilizes high-throughput sequencing technology with novel molecular and computational components that simultaneously report tRNA abundance, modification, and charging states that translate into measures of specific taxon expression and activity levels.  The researchers will develop this platform for the application of minute amounts of microbiome samples and generate a complete bioinformatics pipeline integrated into metagenomics platforms such as Anvi’o.  The team will also carry out three biological driver studies as proof-of-principle of applying tRNA-Seq for new biological insights and discoveries.  These studies will empower investigations of rapid dynamic taxonomic and functional shifts in microbial populations in various biomedical and ecological contexts.

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