Members of the Spormann Laboratory (Present)
Alfred M. Spormann
Influence of bacteria on micro-algal biofuel production
Spatial constraints on syntrophic carbon degradation and uranium reduction
Enrichments on Cathodes
My interests lay at the intersection of microbial ecology and international public health. My research focuses on the effects of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) intertventions on the development of a 'healthy' commensal gut community for children in low- and middle-income countries that allows optimal absorption of nutrients by the host. Particularly, I'm interested in the potential microbial dysbiosis caused by a subclinincal condition effecting the absorptive capacity and permeability of the small intestine (environmental enteropathy), understanding the root causes of the pathology, and how these effects might be mitigated through low-cost WASH interventions.
Idiosyncratic combinations of reductive dehalogenase (rdh) genes are a distinguishing genomic feature of closely related organohalogen-respiring bacteria. This feature can be used to deconvolute the population structure of organohalogen-respiring bacteria in complex environments and to identify relevant subpopulations, which is important for tracking interspecies dynamics needed for successful site remediation. Here we report the development of a nanoliter qPCR platform to identify organohalogen-respiring bacteria and populations by quantifying major orthologous reductive dehalogenase gene groups. The qPCR assays can be operated in parallel within a 5184-well nanoliter qPCR (nL-qPCR) chip at a single annealing temperature and buffer condition. We developed a robust bioinformatics approach to select from thousands of computationally proposed primer pairs those that are specific to individual rdh gene groups and compatible with a single amplification condition. We validated hundreds of the most selective qPCR assays and examined their performance in a trichloroethene-degrading bioreactor, revealing population structures as well as their unexpected shifts in abundance and community dynamics.