• Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science

  • CUBE - Computational Systems Biology

  • DOME - Microbial Ecology

  • EDGE - Environmental Geosciences

  • TER - Terrestrial Ecosystem Research


Latest publications

NO2 and natural organic matter affect both soot aggregation behavior and sorption of S-metolachlor

Soot is an important carbonaceous nanoparticle (CNP) frequently found in natural environments. Its entry into surface waters can occur directly via surface runoff or infiltration, as well as via atmospheric deposition. Pristine soot is likely to rapidly undergo aggregation and subsequent sedimentation in aquatic environments. Further, soot can sorb a variety of organic contaminants, such as S-metolachlor (log KD = 3.25 ± 0.12). During atmospheric transport, soot can be chemically transformed by reactive oxygen species including NO2. The presence of natural organic matter (NOM) in surface waters can further affect the aquatic fate of soot. To better understand the processes driving the fate of soot and its interactions with contaminants, pristine and NO2-transformed model soot suspensions were investigated in the presence and absence of NOM. NO2-oxidized soot showed a smaller particle size, a higher number of particles remaining in suspension, and a decreased sorption of S-metolachlor (log KD = 2.47 ± 0.40). In agreement with findings for other CNPs, soot stability against aggregation was increased for both pristine and NO2 transformed soot in the presence of NOM.

Gabriel Sigmund, Stephanie Castan, Christopher Wabnitz, Rani Bakkour, Thorsten Hüffer, Thilo Hofmann, Martin Elsner
2019 - Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, in press

Highly variable mRNA half-life time within marine bacterial taxa and functional genes.

Messenger RNA can provide valuable insights into the variability of metabolic processes of microorganisms. However, due to uncertainties that include the stability of RNA, its application for activity profiling of environmental samples is questionable. We explored different factors affecting the decay rate of transcripts of three marine bacterial isolates using qPCR and determined mRNA half-life time of specific bacterial taxa and of functional genes by metatranscriptomics of a coastal environmental prokaryotic community. The half-life time of transcripts from 11 genes from bacterial isolates ranged from 1 to 46 min. About 80% of the analysed transcripts exhibited half-live times shorter than 10 min. Significant differences were found in the half-life time between mRNA and rRNA. The half-life time of mRNA obtained from a coastal metatranscriptome ranged from 9 to 400 min. The shortest half-life times of the metatranscriptome corresponded to transcripts from the same clusters of orthologous groups (COGs) in all bacterial classes. The prevalence of short mRNA half-life time in genes related to defence mechanisms and motility indicate a tight connection of RNA decay rate to environmental stressors. The short half-life time of RNA and its high variability needs to be considered when assessing metatranscriptomes especially in environmental samples.

Steiner PA, De Corte D, Geijo J, Mena C, Yokokawa T, Rattei T, Herndl GJ, Sintes E
2019 - Environ. Microbiol., in press

Thermal stress modifies the marine sponge virome.

Marine sponges can form stable partnerships with a wide diversity of microbes and viruses, and this high intraspecies symbiont specificity makes them ideal models for exploring how host-associated viromes respond to changing environmental conditions. Here we exposed the abundant Great Barrier Reef sponge Rhopaloiedes odorabile to elevated seawater temperature for 48 h and utilised a metaviromic approach to assess the response of the associated viral community. An increase in endogenous retro-transcribing viruses within the Caulimorviridae and Retroviridae families was detected within the first 12 h of exposure to 32 °C, and a 30-fold increase in retro-transcribing viruses was evident after 48 h at 32 °C. Thermally stressed sponges also exhibited a complete loss of ssDNA viruses which were prevalent in field samples and sponges from the control temperature treatment. Despite these viromic changes, functional analysis failed to detect any loss or gain of auxiliary metabolic genes, indicating that viral communities are not providing a direct competitive advantage to their host under thermal stress. In contrast, endogenous sponge retro-transcribing viruses appear to be replicating under thermal stress, and consistent with retroviral infections in other organisms, may be contributing to the previously described rapid decline in host health evident at elevated temperature.

Laffy PW, Botté ES, Wood-Charlson EM, Weynberg KD, Rattei T, Webster NS
2019 - Environ Microbiol Rep, in press

Lecture series

Advanced Chemical Microscopy for Life Science and Precision Medicine

Ji-Xin Cheng
Boston University, USA
12:00 h
Lecture Hall HS2, UZA 1, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Wien

Exploring and Exploiting the Chemistry of Microbial Interactions

Thomas Böttcher
Department of Chemistry, University of Konstanz, Germany
12:00 h
Lecture Hall HS2, UZA1, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Wien

Metals and microbial respiration: the molecular basis of bioelectricity production and greenhouse gas destruction

David Richardson
University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, UK
12:00 h
Lecture Hall HS2, UZA1, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Wien