A bacterial genome reveals new targets to combat infectious disease

March 28, 2005

More than a billion people are at risk for infection with filarial nematodes, parasites that cause elephantiasis, African river blindness, and other debilitating diseases in more than 150 million people worldwide. The nematodes themselves play host to bacteria that live within their cells, but in this case, the relationship is classic mutualism, with each benefiting from the other. Indeed, the Wolbachia bacterium is so crucial to its host nematode that apparently eradicating it with antibiotics severely compromises the nematode's ability to complete its life cycle within its human host. Thus, understanding the details of this relationship may help identify new strategies for controlling diseases caused by filarial nematodes. In a new study published in the freely-available online journal PLoS Biology, Barton Slatko and colleagues present the complete DNA sequence of the Wolbachia pipientis strain within Brugia malayi, a parasitic nematode responsible for lymphatic filariasis.

This Wolbachia genome is small, only about a million base pairs, and many metabolically critical genes have degraded through mutation to the point of uselessness. This phenomenon, called reductive evolution, is typical of long-term symbioses, as the two partners increasingly complement one another's biochemical activities.

Slatko and colleagues enumerate a variety of pathways that have either been degraded or preserved, and highlight patterns in the genome structure through comparisons with other bacteria. For example, Wolbachia can manufacture some essential metabolic coenzymes, which do not appear to be made by its host. Conversely, it cannot synthesize amino acids and a variety of other vitamins and cofactors, and probably depends on the nematode to supply them.

One discovery of possible significance is the presence in the bacterium of the synthetic pathway for heme - the oxygen-carrying iron component of hemoglobin. The nematode may require heme for synthesis of developmental hormones, so Wolbachia's heme pathway may be an inviting target for therapy against nematode infection. Since no new antifilarial has been developed in two decades, these results may quickly lead to new therapeutic strategies against these parasites.
-end-
Citation: Foster J, Ganatra M, Kamal I, Ware J, Makarova K, et al. (2005) The Wolbachia genome of Brugia malayi: Endosymbiont evolution within a human pathogenic nematode. PLoS Biol 3(4): e121.

CONTACT:
Barton Slatko
New England Biolabs
Molecular Parasitology
32 Tozer Road
Beverly, MA USA 01915
1-978-927-5054
1-978-921-1350 (fax)
dnaseq@neb.com

PLEASE MENTION PLoS Biology (www.plosbiology.org) AS THE SOURCE FOR THESE ARTICLES. THANK YOU.

All works published in PLoS Biology are open access. Everything is immediately available without cost to anyone, anywhere--to read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and otherwise use--subject only to the condition that the original authorship is properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.

PLOS

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.