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A matter of priorities: Bacteria evolved way to safeguard crucial genetic material, Prof Nick Luscombe publishes in Nature

26 April 2012

23 April 2012

Different genes mutate at different rates, in the bacterium E. coli.
Credit: EMBL / I. Martincorena.

Just as banks store away only the most valuable possessions in the most secure safes, cells prioritise which genes they guard most closely, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have found. The study, published online today in Nature, shows that bacteria have evolved a mechanism that protects important genes from random mutation, effectively reducing the risk of self-destruction. The findings answer a question that has been under debate for half a century and provide insights into how disease-causing mutations arise and pathogens evolve.

“We discovered that there must be a molecular mechanism that preferentially protects certain areas of the genome over others,” says Nicholas Luscombe, who led the research at EMBL-EBI. “If we can identify the proteins involved and uncover how this works, we will be even closer to understanding how mutations that lead to diseases like cancer can be prevented.”

Read more in EMBL Press Release 22 April 2012 - A matter of priorities

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