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 un
Contact: Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation