This fundamental research about a key step in RNA synthesis has important implications for the study of gene expression in other organisms, and adds to the wealth of knowledge about E. coli contributed by scientists from the UW-Madison.
"The kinds of processes that we study in E. coli happen in a wide variety of bacteria of medical, environmental and agricultural importance," notes Rick Gourse, a professor of bacteriology who published the Cell paper along with a team from his lab. "This knowledge can ultimately be put to use in systems that aren't so amenable to investigation, such as bacteria that cause cholera, produce anthrax toxin or lead to ulcers and stomach cancer."
Scientists use model organisms because they are relatively easy to work with and because there is a vast amount of previous knowledge about them. They can then test whether their findings in model organisms hold true in other species, says Gourse, who studies a strain of E. coli that while harmless, is closely related to disease-causing varieties like E. coli 0157:H7.
"Basic research in E. coli is very important," says Gourse. "Much of what we know about gene expression both in bacteria and in higher life forms comes from work performed originally on this model organism." The strain that Gourse works with is one of the most well-studied species in biology and has important ties to the UW-Madison.
In his most recent study, Gourse investigated the interaction between RNA polymerase and promoters from the E. coli chromosome. RNA polymerase reads the informat
Source:University of Wisconsin-Madison