Microbial lipids: The three domain “lipid divide”
Tremendous progress has been made in the last decade in the genetic characterization of microorganisms, both in culture and in the environment. However, our knowledge of microbial membrane lipids, essential building blocks of the cell, has only marginally improved. This is remarkable since there exists a dichotomy in the distribution of lipids between the three Domains of Life. Diacyl glycerols based on straight-chain fatty acids are produced by bacteria and eukaryotes, whereas archaea synthesize isoprenoidal glycerol ether lipids. From a microbial evolutionary perspectives, this ‘lipid divide’ is enigmatic since it has recently become clear that eukaryotes evolved from the archaea. When novel analytical methodology is used, there is a large hidden diversity in microbial lipid composition that may resolve this fundamental question. We propose to systematically characterize prokaryotic intact polar lipids with state-of-the-art analytical techniques based on liquid chromatography and high-resolution mass spectrometry to bring our knowledge of microbial lipids to the next level.
Novel biomarkers for symbiotic N2 fixing cyanobacteria in marine diatoms.
This research project focuses on tracing marine symbiotic heterocystous cyanobacteria in present and past marine environments. It is important to gain more knowledge about these cyanobacteria because they are sustaining marine primary production in the oligotrophic ocean. The development of a new glycolipid biomarker will allow the investigation of cyanobacteria – diatom symbioses in the natural environment and assess the importance for present day fixation of dinitrogen in the ocean. In addition, the application of this new tracer to analyze the sediment record has the unique potential to improve our knowledge of the paleo-N-cycle. Elucidating the contribution of dinitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in the past when the atmospheric CO2 levels were high will give clues to predict changes in the nitrogen cycle during the expected high CO2 future.
You can read about the HCC research cruise as part of this project here.
Detailed study of the nitrogen cycle in the North Sea and Wadden Sea
This research formed part of a multi-disciplinary project entitled “The nitrogen cycle and changes in the carrying capacity of coastal waters (NICYCLE)”. This project, funded as part of the Dutch National Program for Sea and Coastal Research (ZKO), performed an extensive study of key nitrogen cycling microorganisms in the Netherlands’ coastal waters, the North and Wadden Seas. My strength is in analytical chemistry and my work within this project concentrated on the specific intact polar lipids (IPLs) associated with nitrogen cycling microorganisms in order to trace their activity and diversity, using organic geochemical techniques such as liquid chromatography- multistage mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).
2007 - 2011
The response of carotenoids and chlorophylls during virus infection of Emiliania huxleyi (Prymnesiophyceae). Llewellyn, C. A., Evans, C., Airs, R. L., Cook, I., Bale, N., Wilson, W. H. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 344 (1): 101-112. 2007
Organic geochemical changes in Pliocene sediments of ODP Site 1083 (Benguela Upwelling System). Richard D. Pancost, Christopher S. Boot, Giovanni Aloisi, Mark Maslin, Claire Bickers,Virginia Ettwein, Nicole Bale, Luke Handley. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 280 119–131. 2009
Atmospheric pressure chemical ionisation liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry of Type II chlorophyll-a alteration products: Diagnostic fragmentation patterns. Bale, N., Llewellyn, C. A., Airs, R. L. Organic Geochemistry 41, 473-481. 2010
Type I and Type II chlorophyll-a transformation products associated with algal senescence. Bale, N.J., Airs, R.L., Llewellyn, C.A. Organic Geochemistry. 42, 451–464. 2011
The fate of chlorophyll-a during a viral infection of Emiliania huxleyi. Bale, N.J., Airs, R.L., KimmanceS.K., Llewellyn, C.A. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 69, 205-210. 2013
Different seasonality of pelagic and benthic Thaumarchaeota in the North Sea. N. J. Bale, L. Villanueva, E. C. Hopmans, S. Schouten, and J. S. Sinninghe Damsté. Biogeosciences. 10, 7195-7206. 2013
Diversity and distribution of a key sulpholipid biosynthetic gene in marine microbial assemblages. Laura Villanueva, Nicole Bale, Ellen C. Hopmans, Stefan Schouten and Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté. Environmental Microbiology. 16, 774-787. 2014
Acquisition of intact polar lipids from the Prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis globosa by its lytic virus PgV-07T. D.S. Maat, N.J. Bale, E.C. Hopmans, A-C. Baudoux, J.S. Sinninghe Damsté, S. Schouten, and C.P.D. Brussaard. Biogeosciences. 11, 185-194. 2014
Occurrence and activity of anammox bacteria in oxygenated, sandy sediments of the southern North Sea. Nicole J. Bale, Laura Villanueva, Haoxin Fan, Lucas J. Stal, Ellen C. Hopmans, Stefan Schouten, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. 89, 99 - 110. 2014
Critical assessments of glyco- and phospholipid separation using silica chromatography. Sandra M. Heinzelmann, Nicole J. Bale, Ellen C. Hopmans, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Stefan Schouten, Marcel T. J. van der Meer. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 80: 360-365. 2014
Seasonality and depth distribution of the abundance and activity of ammonia oxidizing microorganisms in marine coastal sediments (North Sea). Yvonne A. Lipsewers, Nicole J. Bale, Ellen C. Hopmans, Stefan Schouten, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté and Laura Villanueva. Frontiers in Microbiology. 5, article 472. 2014
Fatty acid dynamics during viral infection of Phaeocystis globosa. N. J. Bale, D. S. Maat, C. P. D. Brussaard, E. C. Hopmans, A. Mets, J. S. Sinninghe Damsté, S. Schouten. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 74, 85–94. 2015
Long-chain glycolipids with pentose head groups as biomarkers for marine endosymbiotic heterocystous cyanobacteria. Nicole J. Bale, Ellen C. Hopmans, Claudia Zell, Rodrigo Sobrinho, Jung-Hyun Kim, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Tracy Villareal, Stefan Schouten. Organic Geochemistry. 81, 1-7. 2015
Chlorophyll-a transformations associated with sinking diatoms during termination of a North Atlantic spring bloom. Nicole J. Bale, Ruth L. Airs, Patrick Martin, Richard S. Lampitt, Carole A. Llewellyn. Marine Chemistry. 172, 23-33. 2015
Impact of trophic state on the distribution of intact polar lipids in surface waters of lakes. Nicole J. Bale, Ellen C. Hopmans, Petra L. Schoon, Anna de Kluijver, John A. Downing, Jack J. Middelburg, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté and Stefan Schouten. Limnology and Oceanography. 61, 1065–1077, 2016
Increasing P limitation and viral infection impact lipid remodeling of the picophytoplankter Micromonas pusilla. D. S. Maat, N. J. Bale, E. C. Hopmans, J. S. Sinninghe Damsté, S. Schouten and C. P. D. Brussaard. Biogeosciences. 13, 1667-1676, 2016.
Seasonal changes in the D/H ratio of fatty acids of pelagic microorganisms in the coastal North Sea. S. Heinzelmann, N. Bale, L. Villanueva, D. Sinke-Schoen, K. Philippart, J. Sinninghe Damsté, S. Schouten, and M. van der Meer. Biogeosciences. 13, 5527–5539, 2016
A method for quantifying heterocyst glycolipids in biomass and sediments. Nicole Bale, Steven de Vries, Ellen C. Hopmans, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Stefan Schouten. Organic Geochemistry. 110, 33-35, 2017
C5 glycolipids of heterocystous cyanobacteria track symbiont abundance in the diatom Hemiaulus hauckii
across the tropical north Atlantic. Nicole J. Bale, Tracy A. Villareal, Ellen C. Hopmans, Corina P.D. Brussaard, Marc Besseling, Denise Dorhout, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, Stefan Schouten. Biogeosciences Discussions 2017.
The Holocene sedimentary record of cyanobacterial glycolipids in the Baltic Sea: Evaluation of their application as tracers of past nitrogen fixation. Martina Sollai, Ellen Hopmans, Nicole Bale, Anchelique Metz, Matthias Moros, and Jaap Sinninghe Damsté. Submitted to Biogeosciences Discussions 2017.
Previous employment and study
MSci (Hons) Chemistry with Study in Continental Europe. University of Bristol. Final year research project and dissertation: “The Identification of Maleimides in Marine Sediments from the Benguela and Peru Upwelling Zones”. Supervisor: Prof. R. D. Pancost
Participation in European Erasmus programme, Université Montpellier II, France