Microbiology Today May 1999

This issue focuses on biophysics and the applications that are relevant to microbiology. The set of articles discusses the physics of instruments, what limits their performance and the possibilities for extending our knowledge of micro-organisms that recent developments in technology are opening up.

Microscopes are a vital tool of the microbiologist. Dave Roberts and Gianfranco Novarino of the Natural History Museum consider the various factors that are important in producing a good image, such as resolution, contrast and depth of field, and describe how cameras, videos and computers can be used to record and enhance the final product.

Atomic Force Microscopes achieve molecular resolution and enable samples to be imaged under fluids, permitting the real-time observation of biological processes in near native conditions. Alastair Smith describes how a range of biological materials can be studied using AFM, including proteins, membranes and nucleic acids and their complexes with proteins.

Cryo-electron microscopy allows the observation of biological samples in a layer of vitrified water. The images obtained show details of the entire specimen. Stephen Fuller, a senior researcher at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, explains how recent exciting developments in the technique are being exploited by scientists.

X-ray crystallography has been used to study viruses for over 20 years. David Stuart and his colleagues describe how the technique has recently enabled research into the structure of bluetongue virus to make significant progress.

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) allows the structural study of small macromolecules in solution. It produces information which is complementary to both X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy. Stephen Matthews shows how it is being used to study the molecular basis of bacterium host-cell interactions in enteropathogenic E. coli.

Raman spectroscopy is used in biology mainly to measure changes in vibration states of macromolecules or related small molecules. In microbial ecology, the technique can provide information on the molecular composition of the natural environment and how it changes with time. Nozomi Ytow describes the different types of Raman light scattering and its applications.

After all the hard science, Howard Gest gets back to the basics of bacterial classification. He argues that scientists should not be too hasty in making changes to taxonomy based only on the latest molecular data.

How do molecules cross microbial membranes? This topic will be discussed in depth at the SGM meeting at the University of Leeds, 7-10 September 1999. Bruce Ward, co-organiser of the symposium (which will be published in book form) gives a taster of the extensive range of subjects to be covered.

How do you make your scientific meetings go with a swing? Philip Mortimer, convener of the Clinical Virology Group, suggests that holding a debate stimulates discussion and gets the latest findings over in a lively way.

Hot off the Press highlights some new developments in microbiology research that have been published in recent issues of SGM journals - Microbiology, Journal of General Virology and International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology. Topics include:

  • Archaeology meets microbiology
  • Microbes from the deep blue sea
  • A fatal break
  • Viruses and transgenic crops

Last updated 29 May 2003