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Differences down-under: functional and comparative studies of the adaptations of heterotrophic methanogens to ruminant and other gut environments

​The methanogenic archaea are responsible for maintaining an efficient scheme of fermentation in many environments and habitats, including the gastrointestinal tracts of animals and humans. The principal members of gut methanogenic communities are members of the Methanobrevibacter genus, with lesser numbers of Methanosphaera and Methanomassiliicoccus spp. Much of our understanding of gut methanogens has been produced using axenic cultures and genomic data for ~30 Methanobrevibacter spp. but the functional relevance of these other archaeal lineages to digestive function remains poorly understood. With this background, the goals of my PhD research are: i) to increase the biotic representation of the Methanosphaera genus through the recovery of axenic isolates from different environments; ii) characterise the metabolic properties of these isolates in terms of their methanogenic pathways and; iii) expand our functional understanding of this genus via reconstruction of "population genomes" from existing metagenomic datasets and comparative genome analyses. During the latter stages of my PhD, I chose to make a transition in my research activities to include some biomedical focus and take advantage of my relocation to the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute. Here, I have examined variations in methanogenic archaeal populations in some clinical studies, as well as evaluated the immunostimulatory properties of some gut archaea. This aspect of my work aims to not only benefit people suffering from gut dysbiosis, but also through the management of methane emissions from livestock by improving the effectiveness of anti-methanogen vaccine-based approaches.

 

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This page was last updated on 24/07/2017

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