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Clever microbes: bacterial sensors and signals

Exploring signalling systems is often a multidisciplinary process, requiring genetic research, mathematical modelling and evolutionary biology. A recent paper looking at the bacterial phage shock response uses all of these approaches to build up a picture of the complete signalling system.

The phage shock response system is used by bacteria to repair the inner cell membrane, for example following infection by bacteriophage. As bacteria use the gradient of protons across their cell membranes to generate energy, it is vital that any damage is repaired as quickly as possible. The phage shock response system is shared across many different Gram negative bacteria and in species such as Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia it may also be important for maintaining virulence. As it is shared across such a wide variety of species, the most important genes involved in the system can be determined by seeing which genes are most commonly conserved in working systems.

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