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      A microbial survey of the International Space Station (ISS)


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          Modern advances in sequencing technology have enabled the census of microbial members of many natural ecosystems. Recently, attention is increasingly being paid to the microbial residents of human-made, built ecosystems, both private (homes) and public (subways, office buildings, and hospitals). Here, we report results of the characterization of the microbial ecology of a singular built environment, the International Space Station (ISS). This ISS sampling involved the collection and microbial analysis (via 16S rDNA PCR) of 15 surfaces sampled by swabs onboard the ISS. This sampling was a component of Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS). Learning more about the microbial inhabitants of the “buildings” in which we travel through space will take on increasing importance, as plans for human exploration continue, with the possibility of colonization of other planets and moons.


          Sterile swabs were used to sample 15 surfaces onboard the ISS. The sites sampled were designed to be analogous to samples collected for (1) the Wildlife of Our Homes project and (2) a study of cell phones and shoes that were concurrently being collected for another component of Project MERCCURI. Sequencing of the 16S rDNA genes amplified from DNA extracted from each swab was used to produce a census of the microbes present on each surface sampled. We compared the microbes found on the ISS swabs to those from both homes on Earth and data from the Human Microbiome Project.


          While significantly different from homes on Earth and the Human Microbiome Project samples analyzed here, the microbial community composition on the ISS was more similar to home surfaces than to the human microbiome samples. The ISS surfaces are species-rich with 1,036–4,294 operational taxonomic units (OTUs per sample). There was no discernible biogeography of microbes on the 15 ISS surfaces, although this may be a reflection of the small sample size we were able to obtain.

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          FLASH: fast length adjustment of short reads to improve genome assemblies.

          Next-generation sequencing technologies generate very large numbers of short reads. Even with very deep genome coverage, short read lengths cause problems in de novo assemblies. The use of paired-end libraries with a fragment size shorter than twice the read length provides an opportunity to generate much longer reads by overlapping and merging read pairs before assembling a genome. We present FLASH, a fast computational tool to extend the length of short reads by overlapping paired-end reads from fragment libraries that are sufficiently short. We tested the correctness of the tool on one million simulated read pairs, and we then applied it as a pre-processor for genome assemblies of Illumina reads from the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus and human chromosome 14. FLASH correctly extended and merged reads >99% of the time on simulated reads with an error rate of <1%. With adequately set parameters, FLASH correctly merged reads over 90% of the time even when the reads contained up to 5% errors. When FLASH was used to extend reads prior to assembly, the resulting assemblies had substantially greater N50 lengths for both contigs and scaffolds. The FLASH system is implemented in C and is freely available as open-source code at http://www.cbcb.umd.edu/software/flash. t.magoc@gmail.com.
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            Defining the healthy "core microbiome" of oral microbial communities

            Background Most studies examining the commensal human oral microbiome are focused on disease or are limited in methodology. In order to diagnose and treat diseases at an early and reversible stage an in-depth definition of health is indispensible. The aim of this study therefore was to define the healthy oral microbiome using recent advances in sequencing technology (454 pyrosequencing). Results We sampled and sequenced microbiomes from several intraoral niches (dental surfaces, cheek, hard palate, tongue and saliva) in three healthy individuals. Within an individual oral cavity, we found over 3600 unique sequences, over 500 different OTUs or "species-level" phylotypes (sequences that clustered at 3% genetic difference) and 88 - 104 higher taxa (genus or more inclusive taxon). The predominant taxa belonged to Firmicutes (genus Streptococcus, family Veillonellaceae, genus Granulicatella), Proteobacteria (genus Neisseria, Haemophilus), Actinobacteria (genus Corynebacterium, Rothia, Actinomyces), Bacteroidetes (genus Prevotella, Capnocytophaga, Porphyromonas) and Fusobacteria (genus Fusobacterium). Each individual sample harboured on average 266 "species-level" phylotypes (SD 67; range 123 - 326) with cheek samples being the least diverse and the dental samples from approximal surfaces showing the highest diversity. Principal component analysis discriminated the profiles of the samples originating from shedding surfaces (mucosa of tongue, cheek and palate) from the samples that were obtained from solid surfaces (teeth). There was a large overlap in the higher taxa, "species-level" phylotypes and unique sequences among the three microbiomes: 84% of the higher taxa, 75% of the OTUs and 65% of the unique sequences were present in at least two of the three microbiomes. The three individuals shared 1660 of 6315 unique sequences. These 1660 sequences (the "core microbiome") contributed 66% of the reads. The overlapping OTUs contributed to 94% of the reads, while nearly all reads (99.8%) belonged to the shared higher taxa. Conclusions We obtained the first insight into the diversity and uniqueness of individual oral microbiomes at a resolution of next-generation sequencing. We showed that a major proportion of bacterial sequences of unrelated healthy individuals is identical, supporting the concept of a core microbiome at health.
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              Microbes inside--from diversity to function: the case of Akkermansia.

              The human intestinal tract is colonized by a myriad of microbes that have developed intimate interactions with the host. In healthy individuals, this complex ecosystem remains stable and resilient to stressors. There is significant attention on the understanding of the composition and function of this intestinal microbiota in health and disease. Current developments in metaomics and systems biology approaches allow to probe the functional potential and activity of the intestinal microbiota. However, all these approaches inherently suffer from the fact that the information on macromolecules (DNA, RNA and protein) is collected at the ecosystem level. Similarly, all physiological and other information collected from isolated strains relates to pure cultures grown in vitro or in gnotobiotic systems. It is essential to integrate these two worlds of predominantly chemistry and biology by linking the molecules to the cells. Here, we will address the integration of omics- and culture-based approaches with the complexity of the human intestinal microbiota in mind and the mucus-degrading bacteria Akkermansia spp. as a paradigm.

                Author and article information

                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                5 December 2017
                : 5
                : e4029
                [1 ]Genome Center, University of California, Davis , CA, United States of America
                [2 ]Science Cheerleader , United States of America
                [3 ]The Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes, Arizona State University , Tempe, AZ, United States of America
                [4 ]Scistarter.org , United States of America
                [5 ]Biosciences Division, Argonne National Laboratory , Lemont, IL, United States of America
                [6 ]Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago , Chicago, IL, United States of America
                [7 ]Argonne National Laboratory, University of Chicago , Lemont, IL, United States of America
                [8 ]Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology, Argonne National Laboratory , Lemont, IL, United States of America
                [9 ]Evolution and Ecology, University of California Davis, CA, United States of America
                [10 ]Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of California , Davis, CA, United States of America
                [11 ]Biomedical Engineering, University of California , Davis, CA, United States of America
                ©2017 Lang et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                : 22 February 2017
                : 23 October 2017
                Funded by: Space Florida ISS Research Competition
                Funded by: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
                This work was supported by the Space Florida ISS Research Competition ( http://www.spaceflorida.gov/iss-research-competition), http://SciStarter.com, and a grant to Jonathan A. Eisen from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of the “Microbiology of the Built Environment” program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

                16s,microbial ecology,microbiology of the built environment,microbiome,international space station


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