In April 2020, BCCM started “BCCM GEN-ERA”, a 2-year project merging microbial biology and computing sciences. Financed by the Belgian Science Policy (Belspo), the project is entitled “BCCM collections in the genomic era” and aims at implementing genomic analyses tools in the BCCM collections, allowing increased knowledge of their patrimony. It is a partnership between the collections and the Eukaryotic Phylogenomics laboratory of Prof. Denis Baurain at the University of Liège.
Context & general objectives
Prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms play a major role in ecosystems and human activities. Research in microbiology, fundamental or applied, is therefore essential. Culture collections actively participate in this research by analyzing their biological resources or by making them available to the scientific community. Technological advances allow to unravel in an easier and faster way the secrets of the microorganisms. Among these technologies, sequencing and functional analysis of their genome offer remarkable perspectives.
Implementation of genomics tools in BCCM collections will be achieved through specific research questions on their microbial resources, resulting in a greater valorization of this biological material while enabling future investigations on species and strains of interest. The methodology is based on the acquisition, annotation and analysis of genomic sequences from various bacteria, mycobacteria, cyanobacteria, yeasts and moulds.
Research questions and impact
Genome-based microbial taxonomy is offering a new approach to delineate species and improve classification, allowing many developments in molecular taxonomy and evolutionary processes. The project will also bring modern state-of-the-art methodologies to analyze the gene repertoire of strains in order to better understand their metabolism. More specifically, the project will contribute to:
- characterize the functional potential of the major bumblebee bacterial endosymbionts,
- unravel the evolutionary relationships among species of mycobacteria and give insight into their interactions with host immune cells,
- decipher the phylogeny and taxonomy of cyanobacteria and detect genomic signatures of adaptations to extreme environments and production of bioactive compounds,
- study yeasts associated with bee guts and the functional interactions with their host,
- improve the taxonomy of the most common fungal pathogens responsible for skin mycoses, facilitate their identification and improving their epidemiology.
These research questions and the investigated microorganisms were thus especially selected for their added value for science and the society. Targeted species and strains include human and animal pathogens, microorganisms associated with pollinating insects as well as microbial strains producing bioactive compounds or adapted to extreme environments. Expected results will provide new insights into microsymbiont roles and interactions with their hosts, virulence factors, gene function prediction, species evolution and delineation, genetic markers for identification, etc.
All the outputs of the project will be managed according to the FAIR principles. Besides the publication of research results in scientific journals, investigated strains will be deposited in the public catalogue of the BCCM collections. Moreover, bioinformatics pipelines as well as the genome sequences will be publicly available in dedicated repositories. The maintenance of a long-term expertise in the use of these data and pipelines by the BCCM scientists is also foreseen through trainings.
For more information, you can follow the LinkedIn page of the project: