Scientists find method to probe genes of the most common bacterial STI

April 11, 2011, National Institutes of Health

In a new study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, scientists describe successfully mutating specific genes of Chlamydia bacteria, which cause the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States as well as a type of blindness common in developing nations. The procedure they used will help advance scientists' understanding of how these bacteria cause human disease and expedite the development of new strategies to prevent and control these infections.

The advance could end decades of frustration for scientists who until now have been unable to manipulate Chlamydia genes in the laboratory, inhibiting research progress in the field.

Traditionally, gene manipulation involves directly introducing foreign DNA into . But Chlamydia bacteria live inside cells where they are protected from foreign DNA by a series of cellular and bacterial membranes. Therefore, more complicated and indirect approaches were applied to mutate Chlamydia genes.

The procedure, called Targeting Induced Local in Genomes (TILLING), has been used for years in plant genetics but is new to bacterial genetics. In their study, NIAID scientists used TILLING to successfully change the function of a specific Chlamydia gene. After creating a library of chemically mutated Chlamydia bacteria, they looked for mutations in a specific target gene. The analysis yielded a mutant with a single in the target gene; that change both inactivated the gene and greatly weakened the ability of the organism to survive in laboratory-grown human .

According to the study authors, TILLING may now be used to reveal the unknown function of hundreds of other Chlamydia genes in an effort to better understand these infections and develop new ways to treat and prevent them.

Chlamydia diseases include both sexually transmitted infections, which can result in pelvic inflammatory disease that can cause infertility in women, and trachoma, which can cause blindness and is common in developing nations. More than 1.2 million infections were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 140 million persons have trachoma in regions of Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

More information: L Kari et al. Generation of targeted Chlamydia trachomatis null mutants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/PNAS.1102229108 (2011).

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study advances gene therapy for glaucoma

January 16, 2018
While testing genes to treat glaucoma by reducing pressure inside the eye, University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists stumbled onto a problem: They had trouble getting efficient gene delivery to the cells that act like drains ...

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 despite having no body to work with

January 16, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland, has partly recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827, despite having no body to take tissue samples from. ...

The surprising role of gene architecture in cell fate decisions

January 16, 2018
Scientists read the code of life—the genome—as a sequence of letters, but now researchers have also started exploring its three-dimensional organisation. In a paper published in Nature Genetics, an interdisciplinary research ...

How incurable mitochondrial diseases strike previously unaffected families

January 15, 2018
Researchers have shown for the first time how children can inherit a severe - potentially fatal - mitochondrial disease from a healthy mother. The study, led by researchers from the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit at the University ...

Genes that aid spinal cord healing in lamprey also present in humans

January 15, 2018
Many of the genes involved in natural repair of the injured spinal cord of the lamprey are also active in the repair of the peripheral nervous system in mammals, according to a study by a collaborative group of scientists ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.