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Comparative genomics reveals molecular evolution of Q fever pathogen
Date:2/2/2009

the researchers sequenced the genomes of three strains of the bacteria and made a four-way comparison of C. burnetii genomic sequences. Strain virulence was associated with a smaller genome. The loss of genes was due in part to the formation of pseudogenes, evolutionary remnants of earlier genes that no longer code for functional proteins.

Kelly Williams, research investigator at VBI, commented: "A principle of our and many modern studies was first enunciated in the title of a 1965 paper by Emile Zuckerkandl and Linus Pauling, 'Molecules as documents of evolutionary history'. Genomes are the ultimate molecular documents, filled with stories that fascinate and instruct, and we can now speed-read them."

VBI Executive and Scientific Director Bruno Sobral, a co-author on the paper, remarked: "2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin. That's a very suitable time to step back and think about how new technologies are giving us ever more powerful ways to investigate the history and mechanism of evolution. We hope the work in the current study serves as a resource for both the Coxiella and wider infectious disease research communities interested in the evolution of pathogen virulence."

Dr. Heinzen concluded: "The results of this study provide a solid foundation upon which we can test a number of hypotheses related to C. burnetii gene function and virulence. This information will prove invaluable as we proceed to dissect, at a molecular level, events associated with Q fever pathogenesis"


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Contact: Barry Whyte
whyte@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-1767
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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