Archaea, once thought to only live in extreme environments, are present in many ecosystems, including the human microbiome, and they play important roles ranging from nutrient cycling to bioremediation. Yet this domain is often overlooked in microbiology classes and rarely included in laboratory exercises. Excluding archaea from high school and undergraduate curricula prevents students from learning the uniqueness and importance of this domain. Here, we have modified a familiar and popular microbiology experiment-the Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion antibiotic susceptibility test-to include, together with the model bacterium Escherichia coli, the model archaeon Haloferax volcanii. Students will learn the differences and similarities between archaea and bacteria by using antibiotics that target, for example, the bacterial peptidoglycan cell wall or the ribosome. Furthermore, the experiment provides a platform to reiterate basic cellular biology concepts that students may have previously discussed. We have developed two versions of this experiment, one designed for an undergraduate laboratory curriculum and the second, limited to H. volcanii, that high school students can perform in their classrooms. This nonpathogenic halophile can be cultured aerobically at ambient temperature in high-salt media, preventing contamination, making the experiment low-cost and safe for use in the high school setting.
Schiller, Heather; Young, Criston; Schulze, Stefan; Tripepi, Manuela; and Pohlschroder, Mechthild, "A Twist to the Kirby-Bauer Disk Diffusion Susceptibility Test: an Accessible Laboratory Experiment Comparing Haloferax volcanii and Escherichia coli Antibiotic Susceptibility to Highlight the Unique Cell Biology of Archaea" (2022). College of Life Sciences Faculty Papers. Paper 13.
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