The central aim of this project is to combine the strength of cutting edge techniques in stable isotope tracer chemistry with modern genomic and proteomic analysis to improve the stable isotope probing (SIP) concept for the investigation of structure, function and activity of microbial communities. Modern molecular biological techniques have a high taxonomic value and enable the identification of the members of microbial communities in the environment but do not unravel their function and activity. Proteins are the biochemical catalysers of microbial processes; therefore they may show the potential of microorganisms.
Proteomic analysis allows identifying protein and characterising their molecular weight, however, their function in environmental samples may be obscure in many cases. Isotope tracer techniques are excellent tools for process analysis. In tracer experiment nucleic acids and proteins will become labelled by stable isotopes upon biosynthesis. Therefore, the isotope label in proteins or nucleic acids contain critical information on function and activity of the host organism: This additional information can improve microbial ecology with respect to the investigation of structure, function and activity of microbial communities and the elucidation of tropic levels in food webs. The goal of the present work is to improve stable isotope probing (SIP) via better separation techniques for nucleic acids and proteins to provide a more powerful toolbox to link microbial community structure with in situ function of individual populations and to investigate the degradation processes and food webs in microbial communities.
The practical relevance of this approach is to improve the testing of degradability of chemicals in the environment which has practical application for risk assessment and evaluation of chemicals in the context European legislation such as the WFD and REACH.
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