Genome of potential bioterror agent seqenced

ROCKVILLE, MD.-- Scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), in collaboration with colleagues at Virginia Tech, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Disease Center and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, have determined the complete genomic sequence of Brucella suis, a bacterial pathogen and potential bioterrorism agent that could be targeted against humans or livestock.

TIGR's analysis of that sequence and related genomes found "fundamental similarities" between the genome of Brucella a pathogen that infects only animals -- and other microbes that cause diseases in plants or live symbiotically with plants.

"This study suggests that the genomic differences between animal and plant pathogens are not nearly as wide as scientists used to believe," said Ian Paulsen, Ph.D., the faculty member at TIGR who led the sequencing project. "It seems that plant and animal pathogens may employ similar mechanisms to cause disease."

The complete genome sequence of B. suis, published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provides valuable insights into the lifestyle, pathogenesis and evolution of the potential bioterror agent.

As part of the research project, TIGR scientists compared B. suis with the genome of Brucella melitensis, a related species that causes similar "brucellosis" disease in goats rather than swine. (Both species also affect humans.) They found that the two genomes have a "high degree of similarity," and that most of the differences appear to involve surface-exposed genes such as outer membrane proteins and membrane transporters. "These more variable genes may significantly contribute to the differences in pathogenicity or host preference between these two organisms," the researchers write.

Paulsen said such comparisons are important because they shed light on the molecular mechanisms that enable closely-related species to target di

Contact: Robert Koenig
The Institute for Genomic Research

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