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La plataforma permanente Atomium Culture reúne a las universidades, periódicos y empresas más prestigiosos de Europa para promover el flujo del conocimiento más allá de fronteras, entre sectores y hacia el público en general.

What determines a species in bacteria?

Por: | 27 de noviembre de 2012

By Jesús García and Carmen Menendez, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Modifications in bacterial genome enable single bacteria to separate from its original population, and to evolve in a way that a new complete different species can be established.

In a recent publication at Infection Genomics and Evolution by Mª Jesús García and Carmen Menendez, researchers at the Preventive Medicine Department at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) together with CorpoGen Coprporation, have described how bioinformatics methods can be applied to learn about the bacteria genome evolution.

The study aimed to find the necessary changes in bacteria genome (actinomycetales), so that two bacteria evolve as separate species.

To this end, researchers selected two different procedures to analyze the complete genome. The first one analyzed the frequency of a certain genome sequence –known as genetic footprint- where they observed that bacteria with very similar footprint belong to the same spices. With the second method they measured gene allocation order along the genome; it is known that if genes in two isolated are placed on the same site in the genome, they belong to the same species.

One of the main findings of the study was that those bacteria related to the bacillus causing tuberculosis (which belong to the so called 'tuberculosis complex') that have been considered as different species, are actually the same species as the tuberculosis bacillus, because they preserve the footprint and gene order among their genomes. This result may be important in the diagnosis and identification of these bacteria.

The application of the two methods indicates that the conservation of gene order in the genome is evolutionarily important to be different species. This order appears to be more important than changes in the sequence of conserved genes for classifying two bacteria as different species. According to researchers, this result is of great importance because most of the study procedures of nucleic acids used to identify bacteria are based primarily on the sequence of conserved genes.

This study proves the relevance of considering the order in which the genes are arranged in the genome, in addition to their sequence.

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