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Research Topic: MALDI-TOF MS Application in Microbial Ecology Studies

Recent advancements in high-throughput sequencing, proteomics, metabolomics and bioinformatics has revolutionized the microbial ecology research, and immensely improved our understanding of the microbiome. Metagenomics and other cultivation-independent studies have showed that hundreds of millions of microorganisms populate various ecosystems of the earth, and the majority of these have not yet been cultivated and their functions remain unknown. Cultivation of microorganisms hold an important advantage: the isolates can be exploited for their potential biotechnology. It is impossible to cultivate the complete microbial communities even after using multiple culture conditions, but cultivation of several microorganisms has been achieved, which have previously been reported only using cultivation-independent methods. The major difference between the cultivation-independent and cultivation-dependent approaches is high-throughput analysis.

Based on the information generated from cultivation-independent studies, several new cultivation techniques have been designed to cultivate the enormous diversity of the microorganisms present in any ecosystem. Such studies involve simulation of culture conditions by mimicking the natural environment and high-throughput cultivation of microorganisms, leading to the development of a new approach known as “Culturomics”. To achieve this, a rapid and reliable method for the identification of microorganisms from various ecosystems is critically required. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass-spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) based identification of microorganisms appears the most suitable technique for this role. The ability to generate ‘portable’ data to develop databases holds the key of its successful application in microbial ecology studies. In addition to high-throughput identification, MALDI-TOF MS has also been used for analysis of microbial function or metabolism at single organism and/or whole community level by the profiling of various biomolecules like, proteins, sugar and lipids. With this Research Topic, we would like to highlight various applications of MALDI-TOF MS in microbial ecology studies.

This Research Topic focuses on microbial diversity studies from various environments, which involve the application of MALDI-TOF MS for microbial diagnosis, identification, de-replication and analysis of different biomolecules. In addition to this, we aim to focus on new sample processing methods and bioinformatics approaches to develop pipelines for data analysis to improve MALDI-TOF MS applications in microbial ecology studies. Under the present topic, we encourage submissions of original research articles, short communications, reviews, mini-reviews, methods articles, perspectives and opinions to ensure a wide range of contributions. The topic is hosted in Frontiers in Microbiology section “Systems Microbiology”

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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter

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