Because the navigation system of bacteria has been studied by scientists employing the latest advances in genetics, biochemistry, biophysics, structural biology and other traditional biological disciplines, the system has become one of the best understood molecular systems in nature.
"We took advantage of this knowledge," said Kristin Wuichet, a postdoctoral fellow, who carried out the computational work. "Without it we would be unable to mine the genomic data intelligently."
Wuichet sifted through trillions of letters of the DNA code to extract sequences encoding each component of this navigation system. Then, Wuichet and Zhulin designed a computational approach to classify these sequences by applying a variety of bioinformatics tools in a logical, step-by-step procedure.
"By using diverse computational methods, this study has revealed in remarkable detail how a simple two-component signaling pathway can evolve into complex systems like the ones that govern bacterial chemotaxis," said James Anderson of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who oversees gene regulatory network grants at the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which supported this work. "This computational approach will be of enormous value in uncovering the inner workings of beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms that cannot be studied using traditional laboratory methods."
The study has revealed more than a dozen versions of this navigation system and assigned hundreds of bacterial species to each of them. "To use a metaphor, one can compare this system to types of cars," Zhulin explained. "Imagine, if you would have only seen two types of cars in your life, say a small two-door sedan and a mid-size SUV. By comparing the two, you m
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory