Spring 2016 Session of the Conference for Student Research
Soil is one of the richest sources for microbial diversity and one of the most challenging of environments from which to successfully culture and study the microbes present. From an agricultural standpoint, soil microbes carry out a number of essential biochemical reactions necessary for plant survival, including nitrogen fixation and phosphorous solubilization. All of the necessary components to support plant life are present in Martian soil; however, they are not present in sufficient quantities to support plant life without heavy supplementation with fertilizers. Using metagenomic analysis, we hope to identify enzymes responsible for increased production of these nutrients and/or enzymes that function in bioremediation. We are using a direct cell lysis and purification approach to isolate genomic DNA (gDNA) from soil microbes and create genomic libraries. We will use these genomic libraries to screen for individuals that grow on medium supplemented with different forms of nitrogen and phosphorous as well as different concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous. We will isolate DNA from selected isolates and sequence the DNA to identify enzymes of interest. Those enzymes of interest will be cloned into new isolates to verify the phenotype before proceeding with enzymatic studies.