This year’s volume of the Annual Review of Microbiology reflects the breadth of topics and interests that can be considered microbiology. Model systems and in-depth analyses of mechanisms continue to uncover new biology and clarify old questions, from thymineless death to transcription elongation and regulation of Fe-S cluster formation. Microbes are the best place to test physical and mathematical models of biology—intracellular organization and stochastic effects on bacterial growth and development are reviewed in this volume. Some of the new biology turns out to be immensely useful, as shown in the review of applications of the CRISPR system. The rapid rise of CRISPR as a critical tool for genome engineering is reminiscent of the revolution that bacterial restriction enzymes wrought a bit over 40 years ago. In both cases, bacteria evolved simple but effective ways to protect themselves from invading nucleic acids, and scientists took advantage of these tools. It seems more than likely that other such protective systems will also turn out to be invaluable.
Building on our understanding of single organisms, microbiome studies are producing a growing volume of data. It is clear that we can now go well beyond understanding the range of organisms living in different locations and have begun to use this data to analyze how microbes affect the metabolism of their host, how pathogens succeed, and how our knowledge about how they succeed can be used to manipulate the microbiome and protect from disease. One clear conclusion from these reviews is that we will continue to need bacterial physiologists, geneticists, and biochemists to have any hope of understanding the rapidly accumulating data.
The meeting to organize this volume was held in New York in 2013. We thank Eduardo Groisman and Akhil Vaidya for attending and providing us their insights and suggestions. In addition, Lynn Enquist, past Editorial Committee Member of this journal, attended in his role as Editor of the new Annual Review of Virology, discussing the development of the contents of its first volume. One conclusion is that there is enough going on in the world of virology to populate both of these journals. This is the first volume that Production Editor Leslie Parker has ushered from submission to publication, and we thank her for her excellent work keeping us all on task.
Susan Gottesman, Editor