“What may be the most thorough study ever of a single organism has produced a beta code for life‚Äôs essential subroutines, and shown that even the simplest creatures are more complex than scientists suspected.
The analysis combined information about gene regulation, protein production and cell structure in Mycoplasma pneumoniae, one of the simplest self-sustaining microbes.
‚Ä¶..M. pneumoniae has just one-fifth as many genes as E. coli, the traditional single-cell model organism. That makes it an ideal target for systems biologists who want to understand how cells function.
‚Ä¶‚Ä¶In the new studies, German and Spanish researchers documented almost every single protein used by M. pneumoniae. They looked up the known functions of each of its genes, and made recordings of gene activity. They documented all the chemical reactions inside M. pneumoniae and mapped its physical structure. Then they put all this together.
What emerged was a picture of surprising complexity. M. pneumoniae needs just eight gene ‚Äúswitches‚ÄĚ to control its molecular activities, compared to 50 in E. coli ‚ÄĒ a number so low that it implies other, as-yet-unknown regulatory processes. Groups of genes thought to work in unison did so only intermittently. At other times they worked in isolation, or in unexpected configurations.
‚Ä¶‚Ä¶.In short, there was a lot going on in lowly, supposedly simple M. pneumoniae, and much of it is beyond the grasp of what‚Äôs now known about cell function.”
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