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This Week in PNAS: May 12, 2015

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Maryland and elsewhere describe bacteria from deep-sea hydrothermal vents that share genetic and genomic features with Vibrio species capable of causing disease in humans. Using samples collected from the sulfide chimneys of hydrothermal vents at samples sites in the Pacific near Mexico's southwest coast, the team isolated four bacteria capable of growth at moderate temperatures. Genomic analyses on one of these bugs, dubbed Vibrio antiquarius, revealed close ties to pathogenic species such V. parahaemolyticus. The study's authors also saw virulence genes in the newly sequence species, suggesting "pathogenicity genes serve a far more fundamental ecological role than solely causation of human disease."

Two PNAS papers explore arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) features with the help of genomic and/or metagenomic sequencing. For one of these studies, investigators from Cornell University and West Virginia University did metagenomic sequencing on mycoplasma-related endobacteria residing inside the root-colonizing AMFs, unearthing endobacteria with minimal genomes that varied depending on the AMF species considered. Meanwhile, German and Italian researchers used genome sequencing to uncover evidence of gene transfer between an endobacteria known as DhMRE and its AMF host fungus Dentiscutata heterogama.

A Harvard University-led team searched for unique and stable microbiome features that could be used for identifying and/or distinguishing between individuals. The researchers used an algorithm to assess targeted and metagenomic sequence data produced from mouth, skin, gut, and other microbiome samples as part of the Human Microbiome Project. Their results suggest that metagenomic codes within the samples could potentially serve as a source of individual-specific identifiers that are constant over long periods of time. GenomeWeb has more on the study here.