Systems Microbiology: A Meta-approach to Study Complex Microbial Ecosystems
Recent advances in the field of diverse -omics techniques and the development of affordable computer hardware and computational software have made it possible to enhance our multi-level understanding of microbial systems - and how they interact with their environment. With these tools we are now adequately equipped to tackle problems of a dimension too complex for traditional molecular techniques.
The microbial community that inhabits the cow's rumen is the most efficient biomass degrading system on Earth. Although the rumen microbiome has attracted a lot of attention over the last decades and microbiologists have identified and isolated several lignocellulolytic organisms and enzymes from this environment, it is still not possible to synthesize a "true rumen microbiome" in the laboratory. This explains why it is still not well understood how microorganisms and their molecular components affect and respond to physiological changes in the rumen.
Here, I will present and discuss some of the latest -omics techniques that we employ in my group to
- i) obtain a whole-systems multi-level understanding of the cow rumen and its unique microbiome and
- ii) identify and isolate the molecular components that are responsible for the biomass-degrading phenotype of the rumen system.