Flippable DNA switches help bacteria resist antibiotics and are more common than thought

Phys.org | January 11, 2019

Bacteria have a number of well-known tricks available to them to adapt to changing environments, such as mutation and sharing snippets of DNA with each other. Less studied is a mechanism that allows bacteria to hedge their bets against rapid environmental changes by fine-tuning their use of particular genes or pathways, a process known as "phase variation."
Phase variation acts through a unique family of bacterial promoters and other gene-regulating DNA fragments called inverters, which can physically flip back and forth in place. When facing forward (relative to the surrounding DNA), these invertible elements turn nearby genes on; when backward, the genes remain off. But little is known about how widespread inventions are within the bacterial world, which bacterial functions they control, and whether an individual person's distinct physiological makeup can affect which inventions bacteria flip on or off.
Writing in Science, a team led by researchers from the Broad Infectious Disease and Microbiome Program (IDMP), Massachusetts General Hospital, and the MIT Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics (CMIT) report that investors are present in a wide variety of bacteria, make the case that investors foster antibiotic resistance, and suggest that they may help bacteria adapt to and colonize new hosts.

Spotlight

An industry workgroup has identified the benefits of a new class of instrumentation for real-time water bioburden analysis, noting its “potential to improve pharmaceutical water system operations, reduce costs, and ensure water quality.” The instrumentation complements existing methods and, more importantly, helps users attain a better understanding of the health of their water system in order to predictively and proactively manage it.

Spotlight

An industry workgroup has identified the benefits of a new class of instrumentation for real-time water bioburden analysis, noting its “potential to improve pharmaceutical water system operations, reduce costs, and ensure water quality.” The instrumentation complements existing methods and, more importantly, helps users attain a better understanding of the health of their water system in order to predictively and proactively manage it.

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