Genomics and marine microbial ecology
Keywords:genomics, marine microbial ecology, metagenomics, proteorhodopsin, phototrophy
AbstractGenomics has brought about a revolution in all fields of biology. Before the development of microbial ecology in the 1970s, microbes were not even considered in marine ecological studies. Today we know that half of the total primary production of the planet must be credited to microorganisms. This and other discoveries have changed dramatically the perspective and the focus of marine microbial ecology. The application of genomics-based approaches has provided new challenges and has allowed the discovery of novel functions, an appreciation of the great diversity of microorganisms, and the introduction of controversial ideas regarding the concepts of species, genome, and niche. Nevertheless, thorough knowledge of the traditional disciplines of biology is necessary to explore the possibilities arising from these new insights. This work reviews the different genomic techniques that can be applied to marine microbial ecology, including both sequencing of the complete genomes of microorganisms and metagenomics, which, in turn, can be complemented with the study of mRNAs (transcriptomics) and proteins (proteomics). The example of proteorhodopsin illustrates the type of information that can be gained from these approaches. A genomics perspective constitutes a map that will allow microbiologists to focus their research on potentially more productive aspects. [Int Microbiol 2006; 9(3):191-197]
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