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Single cell technologies for studying uncultured microbes: from genes to phenotype

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The cell is the fundamental unit of life that underpins every single biological process in the Biosphere. Despite its significance, the vast majority of our knowledge of the genetic s and biochemistry of microbial communities has been gained through bulk analyses of cell populations, obscuring at times the ...

The cell is the fundamental unit of life that underpins every single biological process in the Biosphere. Despite its significance, the vast majority of our knowledge of the genetic s and biochemistry of microbial communities has been gained through bulk analyses of cell populations, obscuring at times the extant biological heterogeneity of single cells within the population. Indeed, nowadays we know that critical, subtle variations at the level of genotype and/or phenotype of a few single cells can dramatically affect the general function of these populations within the environment, and quantifying this variation is key to understanding several paramount biological questions. In Microbiology, during the last decade, the advent of next-generation sequencing technologies and the advances in Metagenomics, Transcriptomics, Proteomics and other Omic approaches examining bulk microorganisms have shown that microbes are by definition highly diverse and heterogeneous in genetic content and function. Very recently, Single Cell Technologies are becoming a new powerful approach that is opening new avenues for the study of microbial communities, looking at the fundamental unit of the population and expanding our view of microbes and pushing the paradigm of cell heterogeneity to the limits in Microbiology. This emerging and promising field is comprised of an array of complementary and diverse techniques to analyse not only variation within genomes of uncultured microbes, but even more challenging, the proteins and metabolites of interest, along with variation in function, microbial interaction, behaviour, and physiology at the level of the single cell. This Frontier Research Topic provides a unique opportunity and an open portal for the research community to bring together and link the different and diverse approaches of single cell technologies: from genes to phenotype.


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