Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New study pinpoints why some microbial genes are more promiscuous than others

17.03.2011
Bacteria more likely to adopt 'loner' genes than genes that are well-connected, study finds

A new study of more than three dozen bacteria species — including the microbes responsible for pneumonia, meningitis, stomach ulcers and plague — settles a longstanding debate about why bacteria are more likely to steal some genes than others.

While most organisms get their genes from their parents just like people do, bacteria and other single-celled creatures also regularly pick up genes from more distant relatives. This ability to 'steal' snippets of DNA from other species — known as lateral gene transfer — is responsible for the rapid spread of drug resistance among disease-causing bacteria.

"By understanding why some genes are more likely to spread from one species to the next, we can better understand how new virulent bacterial strains emerge," said co-author Tal Pupko, a visiting scientist at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, NC.

Scientists have proposed several theories to explain why some bacterial genes are more likely to jump into other genomes. One theory, Pupko explained, is that it depends on what the gene does in the cell.

Genes involved in core functions, like converting RNA into protein, are much less likely to make the leap. "If a species already has the basic molecular machinery for transcription and translation, there's no advantage to taking in another set of genes that do the same thing," Pupko said.

Other studies suggest it's not what the gene does that matters, but how many proteins it interacts with – a network researchers have dubbed the 'interactome.' Genes involved in transcription and translation, for example, must work in concert with many partners to do their job.

To find out which factor was more important — what a gene does, or how connected it is — the researchers looked for evidence of gene transfer in more than three dozen bacteria species, including a number of pathogens known to cause illness in people.

When they compared proteins with similar degrees of connectivity, the importance of gene function disappeared. "The reason some proteins are rarely acquired is because of how connected they are, not because of their function," said co-author Uri Gophna of Tel Aviv University.

Genes whose protein products rely on many partners to do their job are less likely to work properly in a new host, Gophna said. Transferring a highly connected gene into a new host is like importing a fax machine into a remote village, he explained. "While the machine itself is potentially useful, it needs a number of additional connections to work – electricity, a phone line, a supply of paper, possibly a technician. If one of these is missing the machine becomes useless and ends up as junk."

Bacteria are more likely to adopt 'loner' genes than genes that are well-connected, the authors added. "If you think of the cell like a machine, it's much more difficult to exchange the hub of a machine than some of its accessories," Pupko said.

The scientists describe their findings in the April 2011 issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

Ofir Cohen of Tel Aviv University was also an author on this study.

CITATION: Cohen, O., U. Gophna, et al. (2011). "The complexity hypothesis revisited: connectivity rather than function constitutes a barrier to horizontal gene transfer." Molecular Biology and Evolution 28(4): 1481-1489. First published online December 13, 2010 doi:10.1093/molbev/msq333

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is a nonprofit science center dedicated to cross-disciplinary research in evolution. Funded by the National Science Foundation, NESCent is jointly operated by Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. For more information about research and training opportunities at NESCent, visit www.nescent.org.

Robin Ann Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nescent.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Are there sustainable solutions in dealing with dwindling phosphorus resources?
16.10.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Nutzierbiologie (FBN)

nachricht Strange undertakings: ant queens bury dead to prevent disease
13.10.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

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

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>