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Ivan Erill publishes cover article, Journal of Bacteriology

Research maps genes of unique Betaproteobacteria

August 11, 2015 11:35 AM
The latest issue of the Journal of Bacteriology features on its cover new research co-authored by Ivan Erill, biological sciences, that maps the genes involved in DNA repair of a recently characterized Betaproteobacteria group.

Just like any other organism, bacteria have a mechanism to defend their DNA from damage that could lead to cell death. DNA damage activates the SOS transcription system, regulated by a protein that targets specific patterns in DNA to activate repair genes. 

This paper focuses on the Gallionellales Betaproteobacteria, a group of bacteria capable of using iron as their energy supply and with important applications in remediation of soils contaminated with metals. Erill and co-workers have shown that this group of bacteria utilizes a pattern for DNA repair that differs from all of the other bacteria it is related to.

This raises important evolutionary questions. If an organism's transcription system for DNA repair doesn't work, it won't be able to survive DNA damage, so how could it tolerate the flexibility needed to evolve in this way? How did this divergence happen, 100-300 million years ago? Erill's research suggests that this group of bacteria rewired the SOS transcription system anew after loosing it, in a process known as convergent evolution.

This type of research helps scientists further understand how bacteria can evolve this stress response, which is triggered by most antibiotics. It will inform, at a very fundamental level, ongoing research into decreasing antibiotic resistance through stopping mutagenesis in bacteria.

Erill co-wrote "A SOS regulon under control of a non-canonical LexA-binding motif in the Betaproteobacteria" with colleagues at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain, including former UMBC post-doctoral fellow Neus Sanchez-Alberola.
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