genome exposed

contains 1,752 predicted protein-encoding genes, more than 40 of them identified as putative virulence-associated genes.

By | April 18, 2001

Streptococcus pyogenes is an exclusively human pathogen responsible for necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), toxic shock syndrome, rheumatic fever and a host of other diseases — more than any other microorganism. In April 10 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Joseph Ferretti and colleagues from the University of Oklahoma report on the completion of a five-year project to sequence the genome of S. pyogenes and explain their findings on the bacteria's virulence mechanisms.

Ferretti et al determined the S. pyogenes genome sequence using the whole-genome shotgun approach. The genome contains 1,752 predicted protein-encoding genes of which more than 40 putative virulence-associated genes have been identified. Other genes so far identified encode proteins likely to be associated with microbial ''molecular mimicry'' of host characteristics and implicated in diseases such as rheumatic fever and acute glomerulonephritis. Four different bacteriophage genomes were also detected, implying that bacteriophages are important in horizontal gene transfer and suggesting a possible mechanism for generating new bacterial strains with increased pathogenic potential (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2001, 98:4658-4663).

It is expected that understanding of the complete S. pyogenes genome will enable the development of more efficient drugs and facilitate the design of more specific vaccines to S. pyogenes.

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