Research in the Lab Microbiology component of ENIGMA is closely coordinated with the Field Microbiology, Biotechnology and Computation components. The initial focus of this work is proof of principal on the biology and interactions of a small suite of bacteria identified relevant in microbial communities such as Desulfovibrio, Methanococcus maripaludis and Pelosinus. For example the sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfovibrio is a rod-shaped anaerobic bacterium that has drawn keen interest for its potential use as a bioremediator for its ability to reduce important toxic metals from the environment.
In collaboration with the Field Microbiology component, Lab Microbiology researchers are characterizing key microbes and microbial communities that are directly enriched from metal-contaminated sites. They are prioritizing these systems for deep functional annotation based on physiological properties, interactions with other microorganisms, and potential biogeochemical activities. In concert with the Biotechnology component, Lab Microbiology researchers are elucidating the biology of DvH using the tools of metabolomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, high-resolution microscopy, and high-throughput mutagenesis/phenotyping. They plan to apply these techniques to other relevant microbes identified by the Field Microbiology team. Lab Microbiology researchers are working with the Computation component to construct predictive models of DvH metabolism and gene regulation. Independently, Lab Microbiology researchers are determining how information flows among microbes to assess the specificity, mutualism and antagonism among pairs and groups of microbes.