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Facoltā di Scienze Agrarie e Alimentari Universitā degli Studi di Milano
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Agricultural Microbiology
Code: G280CA
Teacher:  Francesca Cappitelli
CFU subdivision: Lectures: 5
Practices in laboratory:  1
Basic aims:  This course provides exhaustive information on the structure, physiology, biochemistry, genetics and effects of microorganisms in natural environments, in particular their role in the biogeochemical cycles and in the associations with other microorganisms, plants and animals.
Acquired skills:  It covers some important microbial applications in Agriculture, Food and the Environment, so that the student can acquire the fundamental tools to build a better career.
Course contents:  This module will enable you to appreciate the diversity of microbial cells and how they interact with their environment. It covers the structure and function of a wide variety of microbes and include a range of applications in the agricultural field. Some lectures are dedicated to the understanding of the practical techniques used to study the microbial world. The module has also a practical emphasis as it includes lab classes.
Program:  Introduction to the course Programme and objectives. The lectures are accompanied by laboratory activities. General information on laboratory activities. Exam rules. Cell morphology, cytology and microbiological techniques Evolutionary relationships among prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archea) and with Eukarya. Bacterial morphology. Morphology, physiology, ecology and taxonomy of Fungi. Prokaryotic cell structure: wall, surface structures, cytoplasmatic membrane, ribosome, inclusions, genome. Endospore; structure and formation. Essentials of microscopy techniques and instrumentation. Biofilms. Microbial nutrition and growth Nutritional requirements of microorganisms and metabolic options to obtain energy. Lab culture of microorganisms. Aerobic, facultative, microaerophilic, strictly anaerobic bacteria. Oxygen tolerance. Microbial growth: definition, measurements, continuous culture; environmental conditions and microbial growth (nutrients, pH, temperature, oxygen etc.). Physical and chemical antimicrobial control. Metabolism regulation Microbial genetics Bacterial genetic elements: chromosome, plasmides and transposons. Mutation: screening and selection of mutants. Horizontal gene transfer among bacteria: transformation, conjugation, transduction. Bacteriophage: lytic and lysogenic pathways. Microbial metabolism Energetic metabolism. Metabolic options of bacteria. Aerobic respiration of organic compounds; oxygenases and degradation of organic compounds. Applications: acetic acid production, composting and aerobic treatment of polluted soils. Chemiolitotrophy. Anaerobic respiration. Applications: wastewater treatment, desulfurication of cultural heritage and methane production. Main fermentations and related fermenting groups. Oxygenic and anoxygenic photosynthesis and photosynthetic bacteria. Nitrogen fixation and its application. Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) Microbial ecology Biogeochemical cycles and related microorganisms. Associations among microorganisms, with plants (mycorrhizae, actinorhizae and rhizobes), and with animals (rumen, intestinal tract). Criteria and methods in bacterial taxonomy Laboratory course outline Basic aseptic techniques. Streak-plate technique, spread and pour plating, plate counts, isolation to obtain pure cultures. Optical observations of wet mount preparations. DNA extraction from pure cultures, gel electrophoresis, amplification and sequencing.
Prerequisites:  General biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry
Preparatory instructions:  Info not available
Learning materials:  After each lesson a pdf file will be given to students using the Ariel website. Suggested textbooks: B. Biavati, C. Sorlini (2007). Microbiologia generale e agraria, editore CEA, Milano J.J. Perry, J. T. Staley, S. Lory (2004). Microbiologia. Zanichelli, Bologna
Other info:  The exam is divided into three parts: an interim 40 min assessement consisting of multiple choice questions (about the first part of the course); a 40 min written assessement at the end of the course consisting of multiple choice questions (about the second part of the course); and a report about the lab activities. In later assessements the two partial examinations can be performed together.
Program of Agricultural Microbiology (pdf version)
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