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Uniform language for describing genes of pathogenic and beneficial microbes

An international group of scientists has announced a major expansion of a lingua franca used to describe the activities of genes in living organisms. The expansion provides terms that scientists can use to describe the complex events that occur when a pathogenic or beneficial microbe encounters its host. Understanding these events is crucial for developing new interventions for preventing infections by disease-causing microbes while preserving or encouraging the presence of beneficial microbes.

The unified language under development in this effort is called The Gene Ontology (GO). The new terms added to the GO will significantly bolster what is already a powerful tool for scientists to compare the functions of genes and proteins in a wide range of disease-related organisms. The ongoing initiative is part of the Plant-Associated Microbe Gene Ontology (PAMGO) project, a recently-established interest group of the worldwide Gene Ontology Consortium.

The GO Consortium has been working since 2000 to develop a common language of terms that can be used to describe how individual genes function in diverse organisms. The PAMGO project is supported by the National Science Foundation and by the National Research Initiative of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

Candace Collmer, Professor of Biology at Wells College and one of the principal investigators on the project explained: “Microbes that associate with plants or animals can be pathogenic, neutral, or beneficial, but all share many common processes in their interactions with their hosts. For example, all must initially attach to the host. Accordingly, from the very beginning of the PAMGO project, we carefully tailored the new terms so that they would be useful for describing benign as well as pathogenic microbes in plant or animal hosts.?

Brett Tyler, Professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, and the PAMGO project leader, remarked: “Having a co
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Source:Virginia Tech


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