Research press release


Nature Communications

Microbiology: The strange case of Jekyll-and-Hyde bacteria



今回、Marco Oggioni、Michael Jenningsたちの研究グループは、この細菌がジキル博士とハイド氏のように状態を変化させる原因として、ランダムな再編成を頻繁に起こして、6つの状態のいずれか1つになる遺伝子集団を挙げている。それぞれの状態では、この細菌のゲノム上の異なるDNA配列のメチル化が起こり、それが、細菌の毒性やその他の特性を決める多くの遺伝子の発現に影響を及ぼしている。


Random gene shuffling drives the mysterious variations in the virulence of pneumococci, the bacteria responsible for a significant proportion of pneumonia and bacterial meningitis cases, reports a study published online in Nature Communications. The findings may have broad implications in the infectious disease field, as similar genes exist in other pathogenic bacteria.

In general, pneumococci are common, harmless inhabitants of our nose and throat but they can also cause serious infections, especially in children and immunocompromised people. Their alternation between harmless and highly virulent forms has been known since the 1930s, but the underlying mechanism for this switch was unclear.

Marco Oggioni, Michael Jennings and colleagues show that the culprit behind this Jekyll-and-Hyde behaviour is a cluster of genes that frequently undergoes random rearrangements, resulting in any of six alternative states. Each state drives the methylation of different DNA sequences across the bacterial genome, which affects the expression of many genes that determine virulence and other properties.

Further research is required to explore the mechanism underlying the random gene shuffling and to determine whether similar processes are involved in gene regulation in other bacteria.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms6055

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