Anthrax genome may contain new clues to fight infection, says Science 'Functional Genomics' article

Web Site: http://www.sciencemag.org Functional Genomics

The completed anthrax genome--expected within the next few months--should provide new clues to help explain what makes the infection a killer, and perhaps how best to fight different strains, researcher Kathryn Beauregard reports on the Science Functional Genomics web site.

Beauregard, of Emory University, examines what available genetic information currently tells us about anthrax, and how basic research in genomics can provide insights toward future identification, prevention and therapy efforts.

The completion of the B. anthracis genome sequence will facilitate studies of the virulence, epidemiology, and physiology of this organism, Beauregard writes in a peer-reviewed article appearing online 15 November 2001.

Bacteria related to the anthrax species bear trademark genes encoded in plasmids, circular molecules made of DNA that replicate independently of regular bacterial chromosomes, Bearegard explains. Toxin genes of a reputed relative, the insecticide-producing Bacillus thringiensis, are housed in these plasmids. The same goes for most of the virulence factors of anthrax-causing bacteria, Bacillus anthracis.

So far, the genetic blueprints for two anthrax plasmids have been sequenced: pXO1 and pXO2.

These plasmids, pX01 and pX02, contain genes responsible for the anthrax toxin and for resistance to the toxin, respectively. The first plasmid encodes for the three-part toxin most responsible for inflicting damage on the host, and the second encodes for resistance to attack from the hosts cells that normally engulf and destroy bacteria. The pXO1 plasmid contains a pathogenicity island, according to Beauregard, which are large regions of DNA that indicate virulence was acquired from unrelated organisms. The pXO1 pathogenicity island contains 44,800 nucleotides that contain

Contact: Lisa Onaga
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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