Understanding the Microbiomes of Green Leafy Vegetables using Multi-omics Approaches

Food security is a very important issue nowadays. It is an already complex issue made worse by climate change, and the growing scarcity of arable land due to rapid urbanisation. The UN has reported that “815 million people are hungry today, and the additional 2 billion people expected to be undernourished by 2050”. Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) calls for an increased investment in agricultural research to increase the agricultural productive capacity, particularly in developing countries.

Genetic engineering of food crops has the potential to provide the promising solutions, by providing the technology to develop higher yield, drought resistance, and nutritionally-enhanced food crops. However, the public perception of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) and transgenic plants has hampered the acceptance of many GM products.

Advancements in microbiology and microbial ecology has shed light on the importance of plant-associated microorganisms, particularly the community around the root region (rhizosphere). It is now known that there is a complex network of interactions between plants and their root microbes, increasing the plant nutrient uptake, and provide resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The rhizosphere is populated by a diverse range of microorganisms, and rhizobacteria are the bacteria colonizing this habitat with the ones that promote plant growth are called plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) (Beneduzi et al., 2012). These PGPR can be used to enhance agricultural productivity without using plant genetic modifications, or synthetic fertilisers. But understanding these PGPR and how they interact with their plant hosts requires the latest technologies in microbial ecology, molecular biology, plant sciences and chemical analysis.

I joined the Swarup Lab at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in January 2019, as part of my post-doctoral training, to learn more about these latest technologies. My work here involves the use of multi-omics analysis (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics and metabolomics) to study plant-microbial interactions, particularly how the PGPR at the root region affect the growth of green leafy vegetables. Multi-omics analysis uses information obtained from DNA, RNA and small chemical molecules (known as metabolites) found in the plant rhizosphere. I will also use advanced culturing tools to culture and characterise the complex bacterial communities in the rhizosphere. Bacteria found to have beneficial plant improvements traits can be applied to enhance the yield of agricultural products, in this case the leafy vegetables commonly used in urban farming. This microbial-assisted plant growth enhancement technology can lead to a more sustainable agriculture, lowering the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.



UN Sustainable Development Goals (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/)

Beneduzi et al., 2012. Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR): Their potential as antagonists and biocontrol agents. Genet Mol Biol. 35(4 Suppl): 1044-1051.

Call for Abstract: Taiwan-Malaysia Workshop on Clean Water and Sustainable Energy 2019

The Taiwan-Malaysia Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy (WISE Centre) will organize the inaugural Taiwan-Malaysia Workshop on Clean Water and Sustainable Energy, to be held at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru, on 5-6 August 2019. This workshop is co-organized by the Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Water Security (IPASA), Faculty of Science, Research Institute for Sustainable Environment (RISE), Resource Sustainability Research Alliance (RSRA), UTM; the School of Chemical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the Centre for Biomass Utilization, Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP); together with National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), Taiwan. It is also supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST).

The general theme of the workshop is “Clean Water and Sustainable Energy”, and abstract submission are now invited from academic staff, researchers and postgraduate students on all aspects related to the Workshop theme. Several prominent professors from NTHU will participate as keynote and invited speakers in the Workshop. Participants will have the opportunity to network with professors and researchers from Taiwan, Malaysia, and other South East Asian countries.

A nominal fee of MYR300 (academic staff and researchers) or MYR150 (students) will be charged on all participants to cover meals during the workshop.

Abstract can be submitted at this link: https://forms.gle/E3yxmbkNCPAvE5W79 

Submission will close on 20 July 2019, or until all places are filled as they are limited.

Any enquiries regarding the Workshop can be directed to the Secretariat, Dr. Mohd Firdaus Abdul Wahab at firdausw@utm.my.

For more information, visit: http://www.utm.my/ipasa/2019/06/24/taiwan-malaysia-workshop-on-clean-water-and-sustainable-energy/

UTM Delegation Visited Taiwanese Universities and Research Institute

Our involvement in the Taiwan-Malaysia Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy (WISE Centre) continues with the study and networking trip to NTHU Taiwan and the affiliated institutes in March 2019. Read more about the trip here.

Congratulations Abdullahi!

Abdullahi Mohammed has successfully submitted his final thesis for PhD award. He was working on isolating and characterising psychrotolerant bacteria from Antarctic environment for lower temperature biohydrogen production. Psychrotolerant bacteria are able to survive mesophilic temperature (20-40°C) but they are also able to tolerate lower temperature.

Abdullahi has published a paper in the Polish Journal of Microbiology (click here to read), and a few more are in the pipeline.

We wish him all the best in his future academic career!

Congratulations Lily!

Lily Suhana Ayoub has successfully completed her MPhil thesis correction and awarded the MPhil degree in Biosciences in January 2019. Lily was working on identification and characterisations of biohydrogen-producing bacteria from cassava-processing wastewater and sludge.


UTM and National Tsing Hua University established the Malaysia-Taiwan Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy

We are happy to be part of the newly-formed Malaysia-Taiwan Innovation Centre for Clean Water and Sustainable Energy (abbreviated as WISE), with the other UTM partners being RISE and IPASA. National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) is the Taiwanese counterpart. Read more about the partnership here.

UTM Synergy 4.0: Faculty Consolidations

Effective of 1 July 2018, the existing 18 faculties of UTM will be merged into only 7. The Vice Chancellor Prof. Datuk Ir. Dr. Wahid Omar was quoted as saying “This major transformation is meant to open up more opportunities for synergy and collaborations between academicians from different academic disciplines and new innovation in offering academic programs that are able to fulfill the new needs of the society in the future.”

The Faculty of Biosciences and Medical Engineering (FBME) split into two, the original Biosciences will join the Faculty of Science, becoming the Department of Biosciences. While the Medical Engineering will join the Faculty of Engineering as the School of Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences.

Read the full story of the merger at the link below.

UTM Synergy 4.0 to merge faculties

New ÄKTA pure for our Protein and Proteomic Needs

The Faculty has acquired an ÄKTA pure system, which has a higher capability for protein purification than the current ÄKTAprime plus available in the lab. It also comes equipped with His-tag, ion exchange, and gel chromatography columns. Members of the Proteomics Lab will have access to this shared instrument.

Photo courtesy of GE Life Sciences.

Malaysian Educational Module on Responsible Conduct of Research

The Young Scientists Network-Academy of Sciences Malaysia (YSN-ASM) has launched the Malaysian Education Module on Responsible Conduct of Research, in February 2018, in conjunction with the Regional Conference on Safe and Secure Science at Sunway University Kuala Lumpur.

This educational module complements the Malaysian Code of Responsible Conduct in Research. The first version has 10 chapters, targeting various aspects of research, from ethics, safety, financial and data management, and publications. It is an extremely useful module for teaching RCR in Malaysian public universities, with all activities suggested are based on the 21st century learning experience.

The module can be read freely online here, or can be purchased from the Academy of Sciences Malaysia by e-mailing syafiq@akademisains.gov.my.

Congratulations Nurain and Tan!

Congratulations to Nurain M Tahir and Tan Sing Ngoh on successfully presenting their reports during the recent Final Year Undergraduate Project (FYUP) Seminar. Nurain also received the best presenter award.

Well done!