Microbiology, Metagenomics and Bioinformatics

Johan Bengtsson-Palme, University of Gothenburg | Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Browsing Posts published by Johan

Leaving Madison

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Jorn's Hall

Jorn's Hall - will not be missed

So this morning, I packed my stuff, cleaned out my room and went to WID for the last time this year. I had time to say goodbye to everyone in the lab but Bailey, and I have to admit that I feel a little bit sad leaving. This is a really good place, filled with very good people, in a very beautiful town. I will miss you Handelsman lab, and I will miss you Madison. On the other hand, tomorrow I will be picking up my daughter after preschool for the first time in a month.

My plane

Waiting for my flight

I am now waiting for my flight at the airport. I prepare for a long night of lost sleep (as I cannot sleep on airplanes). I am endlessly happy that I will be able to combine these two fantastic worlds next year when we are moving here altogether. Until then, farewell Madison – see you soon again.

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery - a place filled with people I will miss

I guess this concludes the blog for this time around. Please check back this winter when we’re going here the next time. This is Johan in Madison – over and out.

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

Conjugation and Transduction

Copper to treat Anemia

Copper to treat Anemia

Knockout mice

Knockout mice

Vitamin D derivatives

Vitamin D derivatives

Around the biochemistry building of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus (and perhaps also elsewhere), there are a lot of these signs, highlighting discoveries that were made in Madison. And they really have a history to be proud of. This place is where both bacterial conjugation and transduction was discovered, paving the way for much of the genome editing and studies we take for granted today. And they also did the basics required to generate knock-out mice for genetics studies. I could go on, but I I think I made my point. This place has a lost of history. And I doubt that my slightly messy project will live up to these groundbreaking discoveries.

Labor day

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My desk at WID

The place I work at WID... for two more days

This Monday is Labor day in the US. Which means, I work. After having Wednesday off from lab work, me and Manuel finished up my final experiments for this round yesterday evening, so I have spent this afternoon doing some data analysis. Or rather, I should have spent the day doing data analysis, but it was boring, so instead I have mostly been scripting this… Hopefully that will pay off at a later date when I analyze more plates…

Before that, I went to see a house, which I liked a lot, so hopefully I will be able to sign a contract for this before I leave for Sweden again on Wednesday. Fingers crossed, over and out!

Farmers Market

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State Capitol and Farmers Market

State Capitol and Farmers Market

Today, I went to the big Saturday thing in Madison – the Farmers Market. Apparently this is one of the largest (if not the largest) farmers markets in America, and it’s huge. Farmers (and sellers of some other stuff like yarn) gather all around the State Capitol, and when I arrived at around half past eleven, there were so many people there that you had to just enter into the crowd and follow it in the given walking direction. The sign “Stay right for hot & spicy cheese bread” was right on it; you had to stay in the right lane to get there. But there was so much nice stuff. And then on the opposite side of the stands, there were families picnicking on the lawn and kids running around. I imagine that this will be a nice Saturday outing next Spring when we bring the kids here. For now, I ended up with three apples and some sprouts. I need to finish the food in the fridge before I go back home on Wednesday. Is it time to go home already? It’s been an eternity, but time has also passed so fast…

Madison Farmers Market

Madison Farmers Market


Stay right for bread

Stay right for hot & spicy cheese bread

The rest of the day I spent walking around by the Lake Monona and Lake Wingra, taking a break for a coffee at Colectivo Coffee. Very nice place with excellent pourovers. But now my feet hurts and I need to get some sleep!

Vegetables

Vegetables

Tomatos

Tomatos

Aubergines

Aubergines

Red peppers

Red peppers or chilies or whatever they are called

BMC Genomics today published a paper first-authored by my long-time colleague Fredrik Boulund, which describes a computational screen of genomes and metagenomes for novel qnr fluoroquinolone resistance genes (1). The study makes use of Fredrik’s well-designed and updated qnr-prediction pipeline, but in contrast to his previous publication based on the pipeline from 2012 (2), we here study a 20-fold larger dataset of almost 13 terabases of sequence data. Based on this data, the pipeline predicted 611 putative qnr genes, including all previously described plasmid-mediated qnr gene families. 20 of the predicted genes were previously undescribed, and of these nine were selected for experimental validation. Six of those tested genes improved the survivability under ciprofloxacin exposure when expressed in Escherichia coli. The study shows that qnr genes are almost ubiquitous in environmental microbial communities. This study also lends further credibility to the hypothesis that environmental bacterial communities can act as sources of previously uncharacterized antibiotic resistance genes (3-7). The study can be read in its entirety here.

References

  1. Boulund F, Berglund F, Flach C-F, Bengtsson-Palme J, Marathe NP, Larsson DGJ, Kristiansson E: Computational discovery and functional validation of novel fluoroquinolone resistance genes in public metagenomic data sets. BMC Genomics, 18, 682 (2017). doi: 10.1186/s12864-017-4064-0
  2. Boulund F, Johnning A, Pereira MB, Larsson DGJ, Kristiansson E: A novel method to discover fluoroquinolone antibiotic resistance (qnr) genes in fragmented nucleotide sequences. BMC Genomics, 13, 695 (2012). doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-13-695
  3. Bengtsson-Palme J, Larsson DGJ: Antibiotic resistance genes in the environment: prioritizing risks. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 13, 369 (2015). doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3399-c1
  4. Allen HK, Donato J, Wang HH et al.: Call of the wild: antibiotic resistance genes in natural environments. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 8, 251–259 (2010).
  5. Berendonk TU, Manaia CM, Merlin C et al.: Tackling antibiotic resistance: the environmental framework. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 13, 310–317 (2015).
  6. Martinez JL: Bottlenecks in the transferability of antibiotic resistance from natural ecosystems to human bacterial pathogens. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2, 265 (2011).
  7. Finley RL, Collignon P, Larsson DGJ et al.: The scourge of antibiotic resistance: the important role of the environment. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 57, 704–710 (2013).
Surface tension on 96-well plate

Surface tension - or what we have been working with over the last few days

I’ve spend the lion’s share of the past few days in the lab, working quite late to obtain supercool results that we will now verify over the weekend. It’s very exciting to be able to generate useful data already during your first week in the lab (after not doing wet lab work for years), but mostly this is thanks to Manuel. Anyway, look at the beauty of those plates! My new favorite color must be crystal violet.

Students are back

Students are back, and with that 'all campus worship', whatever that is

Another thing that has happened over the past week is that the students are beginning to come back her for the autumn semester. This means nice little paintings on the ground, lots of things happening downtown, but also that it’s harder to sleep since the previously quiet area of college dorms is not seeing quite a significant amount of nightlife. Large packs of students passing by my window at night, talking loudly. It’s mostly nice though. There are many parallels between Uppsala and Madison – both are cities heavily centered around their universities, and both seem to die a little during summers when the students move out. The differences mainly are that Madison is much more beautifully located between three lakes, that Uppsala has a much older history, and that Madison seems to have quite a bit of nightlife also in the summertime.

Almost there

Almost there...

On Monday I will go to see a house to rent next year. Please keep your fingers crossed that it’s good and, if so, that we’ll get it! Otherwise housing has been a bit of a hassle, since everyone wants to rent now before the autumn semester. But I hope that that problem will no longer be a problem on Monday. Have a nice weekend!

On my way to work

On my way to work

Okay, first of all this is a shoutout post to Manuel Garavito, who has been putting up with me for the last two days – my first two days in a wet lab for several years. Manuel has been beyond fantastic in showing me their basic protocols and having patience with my rusty lab skills. If this project will work out, it will very much be because of him.

The Hop CatThis weekend, there haven’t been a lot of time for other things than lab work, but I spent Friday evening at the Memorial Union where I happened to stumble into a concert with Brazilian (I think, not sure) music. And on Saturday evening I went out to the Hop Cat, where I tasted the fantastic beer Psychedellic Cat Grass and got taught the basics of American football by a woman who was also there on her own, apparently to watch the game. So, I’m doing my well but working my ass off with things I am not really that good at. Yet.

Eagle Heights

Eagle Heights

Hey, sorry for disappearing for more than a week. The EDAR conference (more on that in a later post) was super-intense and the weekend with my Gothenburg research group in Munising in northern Michigan was fantastic but didn’t really leave any time for writing. And after that I have been quite messed up emotionally, feeling very lonely and started doubting my project and … well everything. But it’s looking better now again. Yesterday evening I was out dancing lindy hop at The Brink. Although I only did a few dances, it was very nice to do something that was all about feeling good and playing, and not so serious.

Shorewood Hills

Shorewood Hills

Today I have instead spent my evening doing grocery shopping at Whole Foods (what a fantastic store that is!) and checking out the areas where the University of Wisconsin keep their university housing. Oh, how I wish that we could get somewhere to live there. The surroundings are absolutely beautiful and there were kids everywhere on the lawns. That said, the queues for staying there are most likely very long. By the way, if anyone would have an insider tip on where and how to find good places to live in Madison, all input is appreciated. Tonight, Madison has been good to me.

Frautschi Point

Frautschi Point

Memorial Union, Madison

Memorial Union, Madison


Today I spent some time walking in the other direction from the University. Gabriel suggested I took the walk by Lake Mendota downtown, and that was a really nice walk through the forest, just by the lake. After dinner, I had ice cream on one of the landings on the picture. Madison is really a nice and beautiful city; I look forward to going here with my family next year.

Tomorrow, I am in for a six hours drive to Lansing and the EDAR conference. I hope to be writing a little about my thoughts on the conference as well, but we’ll see if I will have time to get around to that…

I just wanted to notify anyone who might be interested in following my more personal reflections on my month in Wisconsin (and in Michigan over EDAR4) that I will be updating my Wisconsin Blog at this site (hopefully) regularly. The blog updates are not visible on the first page, so you will have to actively go to the Wisconsin Blog page by clicking in the upper right of the page.