AUG 16, 2016 10:31 AM PDT

Enzymes in E.coli Will Compensate for Disabled Genes

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
Analyzing the adaptability of bacteria, biologist Shelley Copley has announced the results of research in the area at the 2nd American Society for Microbiology Conference on Experimental Microbial Evolution on August 4. It was found that when bacteria lost enzymes that are needed for certain chemical reactions, other enzymes were able to patch together a fix that fulfilled those missing functions. The video below describes the announcement.
Adaptable bacteria are more likely to be able to survive changes in their environment; they also pass those skills on to future generations. Those adaptations help biologists learn more about the biochemistry and molecular mechanisms of evolution.

To perform the study, Copley’s research team eliminated genes in Escherichia coli that code for critical enzymes. They then observed the bacteria reproducing over many generations to get a clear view of how the bacteria survived when given those limitations.

While the majority of enzymes have very specific functions that only work on one kind of chemical reaction, there are others that aren’t so specialized. These so-called ‘promiscuous’ enzymes might still be specific to one reaction but also have the ability to be flexible, boosting other reactions when conditions necessitate.
Pyridoxal phosphate (PLP, pyridoxal 5'-phosphate, P5P), the active form of vitamin B6 / Credit: Jynto and Ben Mills
The investigators found that new enzymes would fill in for missing ones in their E. coli. studies. For example, when an enzyme that helps make vitamin B6 is missing, the E. coli with that defect will turn to a new set of enzymes to produce the vitamin. Interestingly, those promiscuous enzymes don’t just substitute in for the ones that aren’t there. The replacements instead worked up an entirely new, often longer set of reactions to achieve the same result.

“We were rerouting metabolism,” explained Copley, a Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder.

A synthetic biologist at Harvard University, Betul Kacar, suggests that promiscuity could also give us a look into the past, showing us clues about what former roles and functions such enzymes may have had earlier in evolutionary history. An enzyme may be there to rescue the chemical reaction because catalyzing that reaction or one like it could have once been its primary job. “Trying to understand how novel pathways arise, what kind of mechanistic underlying forces shape those trajectories, is quite essential,” she explained.

Bacteria are able to formulate many kinds of alternative processes to make up for enzymes that are missing, depending on the environmental conditions they face, Copley noted. The most successful replacements are the efficient ones – reactions with fewer steps, or that can yield a larger amount of the necessary reaction product.

Sources: ScienceNews.org, 2nd American Society for Microbiology Conference on Experimental Microbial Evolution, University of Colorado Boulder
 
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAR 30, 2021
Neuroscience
Social Support and Compassion Linked to More Diverse Gut Bacteria
MAR 30, 2021
Social Support and Compassion Linked to More Diverse Gut Bacteria
Researchers from the University of California San Diego have found a link between how much social support, compassion, a ...
MAY 14, 2021
Microbiology
An Imaging Tool for Seeing Bacterial Infections in the Body
MAY 14, 2021
An Imaging Tool for Seeing Bacterial Infections in the Body
Researchers have created an imaging agent that will allow scientists and clinicians to visualize a bacterial infection c ...
MAY 26, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Connecting Bacterial Genes to Human Disease
MAY 26, 2021
Connecting Bacterial Genes to Human Disease
This kind of research gets us closer to using fecal samples to get a snapshot of the microbiome, and make disease risk p ...
JUN 11, 2021
Microbiology
Natural Antibiotic Makes a Raw Pork Snack OK To Eat
JUN 11, 2021
Natural Antibiotic Makes a Raw Pork Snack OK To Eat
Researchers have revealed the secret of a traditional Vietnamese snack made of raw pork. This work may help scientists i ...
JUN 15, 2021
Immunology
Secrets of Immune Cell Movement Revealed
JUN 15, 2021
Secrets of Immune Cell Movement Revealed
Circulating immune cells are constantly on the lookout for the presence of any pathogenic intruders in the body. Once a ...
JUN 17, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A RADICA Approach to Viral Diagnostics
JUN 17, 2021
A RADICA Approach to Viral Diagnostics
  The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred a wave of new technologies for rapid viral diagnostics, given just how critical ...
Loading Comments...