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MIT: Bacteria may readily swap beneficial genes
Date:11/1/2011

"This gives us a rulebook for understanding the forces that govern gene exchange," Alm says.

The team applied these rules to find genes associated with the ability to cause meningitis and other diseases, with the hope that transferred traits and the genes encoding those traits might make especially promising targets for future drug therapies.

"This is a very interesting piece of work that really shows how the increasing databases of complete genome sequences, together with detailed environmental information, can be used to discover large-scale evolutionary patterns," says Rob Knight, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who says he agrees with the authors' findings. "The availability of vast datasets with excellent environmental characterization will give us an unprecedented view of microbes across the planet."

Continuing the work, the researchers are now comparing rates of exchange among bacteria living in separate sites on the same person and among bacteria living on or in people with the same disease. They're also studying an environmentally contaminated site to see which swapped genes might facilitate microbial cleanup by metal-reducing bacteria.


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Contact: Kimberly Allen
allenkc@mit.edu
617-253-2702
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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