Campylobacter genome mapping to reduce foodborne infection

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Genome map of Campylobacter Jejuni. Picture: Institute of Food Research
Genome map of Campylobacter Jejuni. Picture: Institute of Food Research

Related tags Dna Genetics

A map of the Campylobacter genome highlighting where genes are switched on could help reduce the burden of foodborne infection, according to the Institute of Food Research (IFR).

The information is being used to find genes and control mechanisms that could provide ways of reducing the amount of foodborne infection Campylobacter causes.

From the map it is possible to get a better understanding of how Campylobacter controls its gene expression in response to different environments and how it has evolved and adapted to become a problem in the food chain.

Dr Ida Porcelli and colleagues at the UK-based institute identified transcriptional start sites (TSS), with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Bacterium’s chromosomes contain the genetic information to make proteins and other building blocks.

Genes and their use

Dr Arnoud van Vliet of the Institute of Food Research told that knowledge gathering is the first step.

“In presentations presenting this I used the example of two cats, one attacked a dog and the other just sat there and was lazy. They are genetically identical but one is switching on its anger and aggression while the other is calm.

“The point is it is not just about the genes, it is about what you do with them, it has to be switched on as well.”

The work builds on the IFR’s research to understand Campylobacter coli at the molecular and genetic level​.

He said they had 80-90% of the TSS and had found more than was expected based on estimates from previous and other research in the area.

“It is a resource for the science community and gives tools to when switches are on and off and how it does it. Once we know that, we can interfere with it and switch it off when it is needed. This part is about knowledge generation before we can design something,” ​said van Vliet.

“There is a long way to go and it is unlikely we will get rid of [Campylobacter] but lowering the levels is important, otherwise we are shooting in the dark.

“We will continue to study the switches and what role they play in infection. We want to interfere with the Campylobacter signaling process and not with anything else.” 

RNA sequencing

Differential RNA-sequencing using 454 sequencing technology was used to determine the primary transcriptome of C. jejuni NCTC 11168, which consists of 992 transcription start sites (TSS), including 29 putative non-coding and stable RNAs, 266 intragenic (internal) TSS, and 206 antisense TSS.

Researchers used RNA sequencing instead of the previous micro-array technique because of the requirements of the task.

Porcell et al found that the original analyses of the C. jejuni genome underestimated its versatility and complexity, with a wealth of non-coding and antisense RNAs, intragenic promoters and leaderless mRNAs.

They said these features are likely to contribute to the success of C. jejuni as a pathogen, allowing it to survive in the food chain and infect different hosts.

Source: BMC Genomics 2013

Online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2164-14-616

Parallel evolution of genome structure and transcriptional landscape in the Epsilonproteobacteria”

Authors: ​Ida Porcelli, Mark Reuter, Bruce M Pearson, Thomas Wilhelm and Arnoud HM van Vliet

Related topics Food safety & quality

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