September 22, 2019  |  

Scale-up of sediment microbial fuel cells.

Sediment microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) are used as renewable power sources to operate remote sensors. However, increasing the electrode surface area results in decreased power density, which demonstrates that SMFCs do not scale up with size. As an alternative to the physical scale-up of SMFCs, we proposed that it is possible to scale up power by using smaller-sized individually operated SMFCs connected to a power management system that electrically isolates the anodes and cathodes. To demonstrate our electronic scale-up approach, we operated one 0.36-m2 SMFC (called a single-equivalent SMFC) and four independent SMFCs of 0.09 m2 each (called scaled-up SMFCs) and managed the power using an innovative custom-developed power management system. We found that the single-equivalent SMFC and the scaled-up SMFCs produced similar power for the first 155 days. However, in the long term (>155 days) our scaled-up SMFCs generated significantly more power than the single-equivalent SMFC (2.33 mW vs. 0.64 mW). Microbial community analysis of the single-equivalent SMFC and the scaled-up SMFCs showed very similar results, demonstrating that the difference in operation mode had no significant effect on the microbial community. When we compared scaled-up SMFCs with parallel SMFCs, we found that the scaled-up SMFCs generated more power. Our novel approach demonstrates that SMFCs can be scaled up electronically.


September 22, 2019  |  

Endogenous rRNA sequence variation can regulate stress response gene expression and phenotype.

Prevailing dogma holds that ribosomes are uniform in composition and function. Here, we show that nutrient limitation-induced stress in E. coli changes the relative expression of rDNA operons to alter the rRNA composition within the actively translating ribosome pool. The most upregulated operon encodes the unique 16S rRNA, rrsH, distinguished by conserved sequence variation within the small ribosomal subunit. rrsH-bearing ribosomes affect the expression of functionally coherent gene sets and alter the levels of the RpoS sigma factor, the master regulator of the general stress response. These impacts are associated with phenotypic changes in antibiotic sensitivity, biofilm formation, and cell motility and are regulated by stress response proteins, RelA and RelE, as well as the metabolic enzyme and virulence-associated protein, AdhE. These findings establish that endogenously encoded, naturally occurring rRNA sequence variation can modulate ribosome function, central aspects of gene expression regulation, and cellular physiology. Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


September 22, 2019  |  

The genomic landscape of molecular responses to natural drought stress in Panicum hallii

Environmental stress is a major driver of ecological community dynamics and agricultural productivity. This is especially true for soil water availability, because drought is the greatest abiotic inhibitor of worldwide crop yields. Here, we test the genetic basis of drought responses in the genetic model for C4perennial grasses, Panicum hallii, through population genomics, field-scale gene-expression (eQTL) analysis, and comparison of two complete genomes. While gene expression networks are dominated by local cis-regulatory elements, we observe three genomic hotspots of unlinked trans-regulatory loci. These regulatory hubs are four times more drought responsive than the genome-wide average. Additionally, cis- and trans-regulatory networks are more likely to have opposing effects than expected under neutral evolution, supporting a strong influence of compensatory evolution and stabilizing selection. These results implicate trans-regulatory evolution as a driver of drought responses and demonstrate the potential for crop improvement in drought-prone regions through modification of gene regulatory networks.


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