Monday, August 25, 2008

Flagellar Pathways

I get ideas about blog topics from many sources for blog entries here and at Telic Thoughts. I'm particularly grateful to an individual named Clare for the news stories she provides. Here is a link to a paper about a familiar topic and a quote from it:

The Evolution of the Flagellar Assembly Pathway in Endosymbiotic Bacterial Genomes (Molecular Biology and Evolution 2008 25(9):2069-2076; doi:10.1093/molbev/msn153; authored by Christina Toft and Mario A. Fares)

Genome shrinkage is a common feature of most intracellular pathogens and symbionts. Reduction of genome sizes is among the best-characterized evolutionary ways of intracellular organisms to save and avoid maintaining expensive redundant biological processes. Endosymbiotic bacteria of insects are examples of biological economy taken to completion because their genomes are dramatically reduced. These bacteria are nonmotile, and their biochemical processes are intimately related to those of their host. Because of this relationship, many of the processes in these bacteria have been either lost or have suffered massive remodeling to adapt to the intracellular symbiotic lifestyle. An example of such changes is the flagellum structure that is essential for bacterial motility and infectivity. Our analysis indicates that genes responsible for flagellar assembly have been partially or totally lost in most intracellular symbionts of gamma-Proteobacteria. Comparative genomic analyses show that flagellar genes have been differentially lost in endosymbiotic bacteria of insects. Only proteins involved in protein export within the flagella assembly pathway (type III secretion system and the basal body) have been kept in most of the endosymbionts, whereas those involved in building the filament and hook of flagella have only in few instances been kept, indicating a change in the functional purpose of this pathway. In some endosymbionts, genes controlling protein-export switch and hook length have undergone functional divergence as shown through an analysis of their evolutionary dynamics. Based on our results, we suggest that genes of flagellum have diverged functionally as to specialize in the export of proteins from the bacterium to the host.

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