Scientists Expand Microbe 'Gene Language'

Feb 28, 2007
Scientists Expand Microbe 'Gene Language'
Phytophthora species are under study by PAMGO scientists; the microbes attack crops, trees and shrubs. Credit: VBI

An international group of scientists has expanded the universal language for the genes of both disease-causing and beneficial microbes and their hosts. This expanded "lingua franca," called The Gene Ontology (GO), gives researchers a common set of terms to describe the interactions between a microbe and its host.

The Plant-Associated Microbe Gene Ontology (PAMGO) consortium and the GO consortium staff at the European Bioinformatics Institute approved and released more than 450 new terms for describing gene products involved in microbe-host interactions.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) support the PAMGO project through grants from their joint Microbial Genome Sequencing program.

This new "common terminology" will speed development of new technologies for preventing infections by disease-causing microbes, while preserving or encouraging the presence of beneficial microbes. Scientists say the Gene Ontology will provide a powerful tool for comparing the functions of genes and proteins in a wide range of disease-related organisms.

"A common set of terms for exchange of information about microbe-host interactions will help researchers communicate information, and expand concepts from studies of microbes and their hosts," says Maryanna Henkart, director of NSF's Division of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

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. PAMGO, from the beginning, tailored the new terms so they would be useful for describing both benign and pathogenic microbes in plant or animal hosts.

"Having a common set of terms to describe genes of pathogenic and beneficial microbes, as well as the organisms they come into contact with, is critical to understanding host-microbe-environment interactions," said Brett Tyler, PAMGO project leader at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) in Blacksburg, Va.

Many of the early GO terms described biological functions and processes found in microbes, but very few described the functions used by microbes in their associations with hosts. PAMGO started by creating terms to describe how microbes interact with plants, but researchers soon discovered that almost all the terms were also relevant to microbes that interact with animals and humans.

The Gene Ontology Consortium was organized so all users can actively contribute to the ongoing refinement of the terms. When scientists submit new terms to PAMGO, the entire community participates to synthesize a common understanding of how microbes associate with hosts.

Source: NSF

Explore further: Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Reading a biological clock in the dark

Oct 21, 2014

Our species' waking and sleeping cycles – shaped in millions of years of evolution – have been turned upside down within a single century with the advent of electric lighting and airplanes. As a result, ...

Nanoparticles accumulate quickly in wetland sediment

Oct 01, 2014

(Phys.org) —A Duke University team has found that nanoparticles called single-walled carbon nanotubes accumulate quickly in the bottom sediments of an experimental wetland setting, an action they say could ...

Recommended for you

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Mysterious glowworm found in Peruvian rainforest

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer has discovered what appears to be a new type of bioluminescent larvae. He told members of the press recently that he was walking near a camp in the Peruvian ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.