Bacterial phenomics

As a self-confessed prokaryotic chauvinist, I’m always on the lookout for new interesting papers aimed at understanding bacterial metabolism and regulation. A recent paper in Cell, entitled “Phenotypic Landscape of a Bacterial Cell” by a group of authors including Biology Professor Susan Lovett demonstrates the application of high-throughput screening to finding new bacterial phenotypes. Approximately 4000 E.coli mutant strains, representing deletions of individual non-essential genes, were plated on 324 different media representing a total of over 100 different stress conditions, and the growth followed by image analysis. Approximately half of the genes screened had one or more identifiable phenotypic repsonses. This approach allows the identification of genes that are conditionally essential, genes that are involved in multiple resistance, etc. This represents a new automated method for identifying phenotypes (hence “phenomics’) and understanding the roles of genes of as yet unidentified function in bacteria. The data set is publicly available at http://ecoliwiki.net/tools/chemgen/.

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