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European Studies Find Unexpected Complexity in Compact Bacterial Genome

A trio of papers in this week's issue of Science are revealing the surprising genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic complexity that can exist in a bacterium with a miniscule genome.

Research groups from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Spain's Centre de Regulacio Genòmica, and elsewhere characterized the protein complexes, metabolic patterns, and expressed transcripts in a pathogenic bacterial species called Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which has one of the smallest known genomes among free-living organisms. Their results suggest that M. pneumoniae is actually quite complicated, using regulated, multifunctional processes to maximize its miniscule genome.

"At all three levels, we found M. pneumoniae was more complex than we expected," one of the project leaders, Luis Serrano, said in a statement. Serrano was previously a researcher at EMBL and is now head of the Systems Biology Department at the Centre de Regulacio Genòmica.

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