Beggiatoa alba is a microorganism with a number of unusual features. It lives poised at the oxic/anoxic interface of aquatic habitats where sulfide concentrations are at commonly toxic levels, it has gliding motility and filaments of some Beggiatoa are large enough to be visible to the naked eye. Gliding motility is still poorly understood, even though the ability to move on solid surfaces and within biofilms would be of tremendous environmental, industrial and medical importance. Beggiatoa are distributed worldwide. Because of its distribution and its ability to detoxify sulfide, this microbe is important in the sulfur cycle of many coastal environments. The Joint Genome Institute/DOE is supporting a shotgun (draft) genome sequencing of B. alba strain B18LD. With this project, Mueller at Morgan State University will be carrying out a detailed genomic characterization of B. alba B18LD. This characterization will involve identifying as many of the gene functions as possible in the genome. The goals for this investigator will be to evaluate the role of this microbe in the cycling of sulfur, carbon and nitrogen in sulfide-rich habitats such as wetlands, rice paddy fields, methane-seeps, and wastewater treatment plants; to analyze global gene expression patterns involved in sulfide oxidation and carbon metabolism, and to examine the molecular components of behavioral responses to sulfide and oxygen and of gliding motility. Not only is Beggiatoa important because of its ecophysiology and behavior but Beggiatoa spp. have been used in teaching ever since Winogradsky formulated the concept of chemolithotrophy (growth on inorganic substrates) in 1888. Mueller will be using the genome sequence of B. alba as a teaching tool in his bioinformatics courses as well as in his environmental microbiology courses at Morgan State University, which is a Historically Black University in Baltimore, MD. Most of the students in these courses are from populations traditionally underrepresented in science. His goal is to draw interest to the fields of genomic science and bioinformatics as career choices. In addition, the investigator will be establishing a B. alba B18LD genome web page for open-access usage and input by the scientific community. The results of expression profiling will be made available on the web page on a regular basis.

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Karen C. Cone
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Morgan State University
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