A newly mapped section of the tree of life showcases the genomes of more than 50 microbial species. Researchers say the comprehensive catalogue of genomes–just the first chapter in a larger project–will help them find new genes and predict their functions. The research was published today in the journal Nature.
The planet houses an estimated nonillion–1030–prokaryotic microbes, organisms that lack a cell nucleus. According to a press release from the University of California, Davis, only about a thousand of these have been sequenced to date, mostly those that cause disease or have potential industrial applications, such as producing biofuels.
“That’s like making a map of the world and only mapping three cities,” said Jonathan Eisen, a microbiologist at the UC Davis Genome Center and the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, in the statement. According to the release:
The new study, called the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea or GEBA, looks instead at representatives from across the major branches of the family tree of microorganisms.
The study shows that although microbes are known to swap genes with other species (a process called “lateral transfer,”) phylogeny, or position on the family tree, is more important in determining where new genes appear and how they spread.
“Lateral transfer does not shuffle evolutionary innovations in a massive way,” Eisen said. “If there is an innovation in a branch, you tend to find it in the same branch downstream.”
How Facebook and Google fund global misinformation
The tech giants are paying millions of dollars to the operators of clickbait pages, bankrolling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.
DeepMind says it will release the structure of every protein known to science
The company has already used its protein-folding AI, AlphaFold, to generate structures for the human proteome, as well as yeast, fruit flies, mice, and more.
Inside the machine that saved Moore’s Law
The Dutch firm ASML spent $9 billion and 17 years developing a way to keep making denser computer chips.
This is what happens when you see the face of someone you love
The moment we recognize someone, a lot happens all at once. We aren’t aware of any of it.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.