About This Project
I want to document the species of microbes (microbiome) in sourdough starters, and quantify how they change depending on the nutrients they are given to grow. I intent to grow culture with nutrients such as: white flour, rye flour, potato starch, sucrose, honey, and high fructose corn syrup; and then monitor any changes to the microbial community in the sourdough starters.
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What is the context of this research?
Sourdough bread is a fermented food that is made from a sourdough starter culture. The starter culture contains a symbiotic mixture of bacterial and fungal microbes, an ecosystems that provide ample opportunities to identify processes that structure microbiomes. The main microbes responsible for fermentation in sourdough cultures are yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, and acetic acid bacteria. Together these microbes shape the texture, taste, nutrition, and stability of the finalized food product (1,2,3,4,5). Only recent research has looked at the diversity of these sourdough cultures at a species level (6,7,8).
What is the significance of this project?
This project will provide novel data pertaining to the impacts of nutrient sources on the microbial populations in a sourdough culture. This has specific impacts on the food industry, in understanding how the preparation of microbial colonies can impact an end food product's nutrition and quality. The work will also provide data relevent to human health, as a simple model of how a microbiome (such as the gut microbiome) could change when exposed to diverse nutrient sources. The project is ultimatly being designed to implement in an undergraduate reseaseach experience and will create access hands on lab training at a minorty serving institution (University of the District of Columbia).
What are the goals of the project?
Starting this summer (June 2021), undergraduate students will set up fifty sourdough starter cultures to grow under standardized environmental conditions. Each culture will be started from one "mother" culture - thus all having an identical set of starting microbes. Each starter will then be feed using a different nutrient source. Sources will include: white flour, rye flour, potato starch, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and sucrose. Additional nutrient sources will be chosen by the student researchers. After growth on the unique source for two months, all cultures will be extracted and analyzed using metagenomics. We will use 16S and ITS metagenomic analyses to identify the types of bacterial microbes, and eukaryotic microbes (respectively) in each culture system.
These items will (1) provide the essential items and needed analysis to understand the effects of different sugar sources on the microbiome of sourdough starters, (2) allow me to establish myself and publish in the field of sourdough microbiome, and (3) help me acquire needed equipment for my new lab to do further studies the area of metagenomics and the microbiome.
In one month we will gather and set up all of the supplies, and then set up all sourdough cultures with the requisite nutrient source. Throughout months two and three, researchers will feed the starters on a daily basis. At the end of month three we will extract the genomic DNA from each starter and send the extracted gDNA to GeneWiz for analysis. By the forth month we will have analyzed the compositions of the microbial communities in each starter.
Mar 22, 2021
Jun 25, 2021
All sourdough starters are set up and begin first day of feeding.
Aug 20, 2021
End of sourdough feeding, extract gDNA from all starters.
Aug 23, 2021
Send samples to GeneWiz for 16s and ITS analysis
Aug 30, 2021
Receive RAW metagenomic data for all starters
Meet the Team
Alexandra Anna Taraboletti
Dr. Alexandra Taraboletti is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of the District of Columbia. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in the Tumor Biology program at Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and received her Ph.D. from the University of Akron in Chemistry. Dr. Taraboletti is a bioanalytical chemist, who uses mass spectrometry-based metabolomics to investigate models of human disease, including neurodegeneration, radiation injury, and the microbiome. Dr. Taraboletti also has a passion for visual science communication and science outreach. She is an avid artist and applies her skills as a graphical editor and illustrator.
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