Philosophical Society of Washington

Microbial Genome Sequencing

Karen Nelson
The Institute for Genomic Research

2113th Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 11, 2000 at 8:30 P.M.


Whole genome sequencing has accelerated the rate at which new genes are being identified. Many of these genes have potential for the biotech and health care industries, as well as for addressing environmental issues. Complete genome sequences also allow a detailed understanding of the evolutionary history of an organism, the complete genome revealing more information than that obtained from single gene analyses. One significant example comes from the DNA sequence of Thermotoga maritima. T. maritima is thought to be one of the earliest branchings of the known bacteria, and as a thermophilic organism has potential for providing thermostable industrially relevant enzymes. Apart from interesting basic biological findings, this genome sequence presents significant evidence (based on protein sequence similarities and regions of atypical DNA composition) for extensive lateral gene transfer between Archaea and Bacteria. This finding is also supported by independent periodicity analysis of the genome sequence. Almost one–quarter of the T. maritima genome appears to have been acquired from the archaeal domain, highlighting the significance of natural exchange of genetic material in the environment, and also raising questions on the definition of organisms that have mosaic–like genome sequences. The nature of the last universal common ancestor continues to be debated.

About the Author:

Karen Nelson received a Ph. D. in Microbiology from Cornell University. She is an Assistant Investigator at The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, where she works in the area of Microbial Genomics. She recently completed the whole genome sequencing effort for the bacterium Thermotoga maritima and is presently involved in the whole genome sequencing and annotation of Pseudomonas putida, Neisseria meningitidis, and Vibrio cholerae.

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