The Promise of Evolutionary Systems Biology: Lessons from Bacterial Chemotaxis

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Sci. Signal.  29 Jun 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 128, pp. pe23
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3128pe23

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Bacterial chemotaxis and the signaling networks underlying it provide us with a model system for studying the molecular basis of behavior and information processing. Although chemotaxis is well characterized at both the phenotype and genotype levels in the model organism Escherichia coli, it is not yet possible to predict chemotaxis behavior in diverse bacteria on the basis of their environment or genome sequence. Moreover, we still cannot propose a plausible evolutionary trajectory from minimal systems to present-day chemotaxis networks. The analysis of all sequenced bacterial genomes provides a prediction of their chemotaxis networks and reveals substantial structural diversity. Additionally, it uncovers a set of previously unknown proteins that could be the “missing” link between complex present-day chemotaxis networks and simpler, ancestral systems composed of a few proteins. Further evaluation of these findings with experimental and modeling studies will allow us to distill evolutionary design principles in chemotaxis signaling networks.

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