As a research infrastructure, IBBL strives to provide Luxembourg researchers with services that best suit the requirements of their research projects. Moreover, the IBBL team regularly offers training and knowledge transfer to local researchers to further reinforce synergies between Luxembourg research institutes. An instance is the collaboration with the Luxembourg Institute of Health and the National Health Laboratory (Laboratoire National de Santé – LNS) around 16S rRNA gene sequencing and training.
Sequencing the DNA of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene is a well-established method to identify and compare bacteria present within a given sample, and therefore plays an important role in microbiome characterisation studies. In particular, sequencing the hyper variable regions of the 16S rRNA gene provides a signature sequence which is specific for a particular bacterial genus or species. In 2016, IBBL became the first biobank worldwide to be accredited for 16S rRNA gene sequencing.
As part of an ongoing project involving the murine gut microbiome, Dr. Mahesh Desai and Mathis Wolter of the Department of Infection and Immunity of the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) sought to sequence a particular variable region (V4) of the 16S rRNA gene. The team therefore collaborated with IBBL to carry out this analysis using IBBL’s Illumina MiSeq Sequencer. For this purpose, a dedicated ‘16S V4 sequencing pilot’ was set up, with the aim of adapting the functionalities and assays of the machine used for standard IBBL 16S rRNA gene sequencing to the specific needs of the LIH research project. The team could therefore obtain the required high-quality raw data in a customised, flexible and timely manner.
In parallel, two other research teams — one from the LIH led by Dr. Jonathan Turner and one from the LNS led by Dr. Joël Mossong — approached IBBL with regard to two collaborations entailing the characterisation of the saliva and cervical microbiomes through the 16S rRNA gene sequencing method, respectively.
Taking advantage of these three simultaneously ongoing collaborations, the IBBL team took the opportunity to organise a training session on the sequencing of the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene for the PhD students from the LIH and LNS research teams. The hands-on training took place over two and a half days at IBBL’s laboratory premises in Dudelange, and gave the PhD students the chance to gain theoretical and practical experience in sequencing library preparation and in operating various equipment, such as the Illumina MiSeq Sequencer, the Agilent Bioanalyzer and the Applied Biosystems™ 7500 Real-Time FAST qPCR.
“The training enabled me to further develop my understanding of the complexity of the microbiome. I particularly enjoyed the balance of theory and practice and appreciated the competence and expertise of the training staff”, says Irma Karabegovic, PhD student within the Epidemiology and Microbial Genomics Unit of the Department of Microbiology at the LNS. “The session truly reflected the essence of the collaboration between Luxembourg research institutes, which is based on the exchange of sound scientific and technical knowledge”, adds Eleftheria Charalambous, PhD student within the Immune Endocrine and Epigenetics Unit of the Department of Infection and Immunity at the LIH.
“We always look for opportunities to support Luxembourg researchers in their research projects across various subjects, and particularly in innovative fields such as the microbiome. IBBL is becoming a preferred partner in this area, and our goal is to increase and strengthen our cooperation with national research groups at the University of Luxembourg, LCSB, LIH and LNS in order to make Luxembourg a leading country in microbiome research”, explains Lorieza Neuberger-Castillo, Microbiome and Sequencing Assistant Scientist at IBBL. “Knowledge sharing through the provision of services but also training sessions are an excellent way to achieve this goal”, she concludes.
 A gene coding for the 16S ribosomal RNA, a component of the small subunit of the ribosome of prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea).