New study aims to identify genes required for anthrax bacteria's survival

A DTRA CB/JSTO-funded program is looking to identify genes a surrogate of Bacillus anthracis requires for its survival.

Dr. Alistar Bishop, the principal investigator of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, hopes that using transposon-directed site sequencing to identify the genes that Bacillus thuringiensis needs to survive will allow researchers to better understand the thuringienisis variation of the species and be able to counteract the more dangerous anthrax version of the bacteria. Transposon-directed site sequencing provides a mechanism to attribute specific function to genes.

Testing by the program, which is managed by Dr. Sari Paikoff, identified a total of 516 genetic loci, with several classes of genetic sequences found to be more relevant, including enzymatic properties (44 percent), uptake and transport (24.6 percent) and gene regulation and sensory loci (9.5 percent).

Result from the study are currently being leveraged by the wide area decontamination effort. Methods that remove anthrax require months and large amounts of oxidizing agents that potentially pose a threat to the environment and equipment in the area. The DTRA CB's program, however, seeks to decontaminate a large, agent-exposed area in only a few weeks with no damage to the environment or materials present.

The journal Current Microbiology accepted Bishop's article, "Identification of Genes Required by Bacillus thuringiensis for Survival in Soil by Transposon-Directed Insertion Site Sequencing," in October.