NOHFC Industrial Research Chair in Biomining, Bioremediation and Science Communication
Living with Lakes Centre, Laurentian University
935 Ramsey Lake Road
My research interests combine aspects of microbiology, molecular biology, and environmental science with an emphasis on extreme and disturbed habitats and ecosystems. The microbial communities that occupy such sites harbour a range of physiological and biochemical characteristics useful for understanding the limits to life, biogeochemical processes in the environment, and in uncovering special metabolic properties with important applications in biotechnology and industry. Within the context of extreme environments my work includes looking at microbial adaptation mechanisms both in terms of individual species and functional metagenomics/metaproteomics analyses of communities and their roles in these environments.
In probing individual species from extreme environments I have worked to identify and characterize unique adaptation mechanisms in acid mine drainage bacteria (i.e. Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans) and novel psychrophiles (i.e. Planococcus halocryophilus sp. nov). This work uses a comparative approach to assess the changes in cellular characteristics following cultivation under different conditions and tolerance limits. A combination of biophysical measurements of cell properties and molecular methods for determining changes in DNA and protein expression provide new means of understanding the metabolic and physiological traits required for survival under stressful conditions. These findings can be used to target industrially relevant characteristics (i.e. enhanced metal leaching ability, cold-active enzymes) within individual species.
At the community level very little is known about the diversity of natural microbial communities and the genetic potential contained within them. My current investigations of two High-Arctic saline spring ecosystems use a metagenomic approach to identify the community metabolic potential and decipher connections between environmental conditions and community level function. Using high-throughput methods will provide unprecedented insight into microbial processes (e.g. carbon or sulphur metabolism) under extreme conditions.
Investigation of extreme environments uncovers biological solutions to various environmental challenges that can be applied to questions of practical and scientific interest. For example, studies related to acid mine drainage bacteria are key to developing novel strategies and efficient techniques for in situ bio-mining/bioleaching and for bioremediation and restoration where conventional mining has been undertaken. Comparatively little work has been done in this area even where mineral extraction has been long practiced (e.g. Sudbury, Ontario). Canada’s vast mineral wealth and development potential depends on being able to mine efficiently and effectively in sensitive northern (boreal and tundra) environments while minimizing environmental impacts. My current and future work will look to understand the functional link between the geological/geochemical substrates and the metabolic abilities of the adapted microorganisms and microbial communities within extreme and disturbed environments, to identify novel mechanisms that can be used in better management strategies and industrial applications.
Publications (last 6 years)
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Foote, S.J., C. W. Greer, L. G. Whyte. Subzero growth at -15°C; genomic, transcriptomic, and physiological insights from the permafrost bacterium Planococcus halocryophilus Or1. (submitted)
Thompson, M., Mykytczuk, N.C.S, Gooderham, K., Schulte-Hostedde, A. Prevalence of the bacterium Coxiella burnetii in rodents from a Canadian wilderness park. Zoonoses and Public Health ZPH-Dec-11-301 (in press)
Wilhelm, R.C., Radtke, K.J., Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Greer, C.W., Whyte, L.G. Life at the Wedge: the Activity and Diversity of Arctic Ice Wedge Microbial Communities. Astrobiology 12(4): 347-360
Lay, C-Y, Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Niederberger, T.D., Martineau, C., Greer, C.W. Whyte, L.G. Microbial diversity and activity in hypersaline high Arctic spring channels. Extremophiles 16:177–191
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Wilhelm, R., Whyte. L.G. Planococcus halocryophilus sp. nov.; an extreme subzero species from high Arctic permafrost. International Journal of Systematics and Evolutionary Microbiology (Published online ahead of print October 14, 2011, doi: 10.1099/ijs.0.035782-0)
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Trevors, J.T., Ferroni, G.D., Leduc, L.G., Foote, S.J. Twine, S.M. 2011. Proteomic comparisons of cold adaptation in psychrotrophic and mesophilic strains of Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek 100(2):259-277. [Ph.D. work]
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Trevors, J.T., Twine, S.M., Ferroni, G.D., Leduc, L.G. 2010. Membrane fluidity and fatty acid comparisons in psychrotrophic and mesophilic strains of Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans under cold growth temperatures. Archives of Microbiology 192(12): 1005-1018
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Trevors, J.T., Ferroni, G.D., Leduc, L.G. 2010. Cytoplasmic membrane response to copper and nickel in Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Microbiological Research 166(3):186-206.
Shan, H., Kurtz, H.D. Jr., Mykytczuk, N., Trevors, J. T., Freedman, D.L. 2010. Anaerobic Biotransformation of High Concentrations of Chloroform by an Enrichment Culture and Two Bacterial Isolates. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 76(19): 6463–6469.
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Trevors, J.T., Ferroni, G.D., Leduc, L.G. 2010. Cytoplasmic membrane fluidity and fatty acid composition of Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans in response to pH stress. Extremophiles 14:427-441.
Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Trevors, J.T., Leduc, L.G., Ferroni, G.D. 2007. Bacterial cytoplasmic membrane polarization under environmental stress. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 95(1-3): 60-82.
Twine, S.M., Petit, M., Shen, H., Mykytczuk, N.C.S., Kelly, J.F., Conlan, J.W. 2006. Immunoproteomic analysis of the murine antibody response to successful and failed immunisation with live Anti-Francisella vaccines. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 346(3):999-1008.
Twine, S.M., Mykytczuk, N.C.S, Petit, M.D., Shen, H., Sjöstedt, A., Conlan, W., Kelly, J.F. 2006. In vivo proteomic analysis of the intracellular bacterial pathogen, Francisella tularensis, isolated from mouse spleen. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 345(4):1621-1633.