Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Where bacteria get their genes

08.04.2005


Bacteria acquired up to 90 percent of their genetic material from distantly related bacteria species, according to new research from The University of Arizona in Tucson.



The finding has important biomedical implications because such gene-swapping, or lateral gene transfer, is the way many pathogenic bacteria pick up antibiotic resistance or become more virulent. "To maintain effective treatments and develop new antibiotics, it’s important to monitor the rates and patterns of lateral gene transfer," said team member Howard Ochman, a UA professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and a member of UA’s BIO5 Institute.

The research also solves a long-standing evolutionary puzzle. Many scientists have argued that drawing traditional family trees does not make sense for bacteria, because their genomes represent a mix of genetic material from their parental cells and from other species of bacteria.


Ochman and his colleagues’ work shows that bacterial lineages can still be traced by considering only the "traditional" forms of genetic inheritance. The widespread exchange of genes does not blur the line of descent because the acquired genes get lost from the genome at a later point or, if they do persist, the bacteria then transmit them to their offspring.

Being able to classify bacteria is crucial for medicine, Ochman said. "If you go to the doctor with strep throat he can be pretty certain that it’s the result of an infection with a species of Streptococcus and can therefore prescribe an appropriate antibiotic. If you couldn’t classify bacteria because they have genes from all over, doctors wouldn’t be able to do this."

The research report is published in the current issue of PLoS Biology, available on www.plosbiology.org. Ochman’s coauthors are Nancy Moran, UA Regents’ Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and BIO5 member, and Emmanuelle Lerat, now at Universite Claude Bernard (Lyon, France) and Vincent Daubin, now at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) in France. The research was funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Lateral gene transfer, unique to the bacterial world, has long been recognized as common. But until now scientists did not know which of a bacterium’s genes came from lateral gene transfer and which had been inherited from its parent.

In their study, the scientists focused on the best-studied group of bacteria, the Gamma-Proteobacteria. It includes many human pathogens, including Salmonella, Shigella, pathogenic E. coli, and Pseudomonas.

Ochman’s team compared the bacterial species by analyzing their genomic sequence data. The researchers then computed family trees, taking into account the acquired genes, and matched the trees to an established reference tree. For all genes, the match was about 95 percent. This showed that the widespread mechanism of lateral gene transfer does not interfere with the traditional approach of using family trees to infer relationships. Ochman’s team found that only 205 genes of Gamma-Proteobacteria’s approximately 7,205 genes are shared by all species. The vast majority of genes found in the group comes from lateral gene transfer. "Most of these occur in one or a few species only," Ochman said. "But these are the genes that make bacteria different from each other."

Most commonly, genes are transmitted by bacteriophages, viruses that specifically hijack bacteria cells. Like tiny syringes, phages inject their own genetic material into the host cell, forcing it to produce new phages. During such an event, genes from the bacterial genome can be incorporated into the newly made phages. They inject their newly modified genetic load into other bacteria. This way, bacteriophages act as shuttles, taking up DNA from one bacterium and dumping it into another. Bacteria can also make contact by tiny connection tubes through which they exchange pieces of DNA. They can also take up genetic material from the environment.

Ochman thinks the team’s findings will stir new research in bacterial evolution. "It should be exciting to see whether gene transfer has been so widespread in other groups of bacteria, too."

Daniel Stolte | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.arizona.edu
http://www.plosbiology.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Shrews shrink in winter and regrow in spring
24.10.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie

nachricht 'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Shrews shrink in winter and regrow in spring

24.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>