A COMPUTATIONAL APPROACH TO STUDYING THE EVOLUTION OF STREPTOCOCCAL QUORUM SENSING SYSTEMS

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Raja Farhana Raja Khairuddin

Abstract

For many years, researchers have studied the social lives of bacteria to understand intra- and inter-species interactions. Cell-cell communication, also known as quorum sensing (QS), is used by bacteria to coordinate their behaviour in response to environmental conditions. The QS system in Streptococcus species is well known to regulate competence. Studies show that Streptococcus pneumoniae has two homologous QS systems: 1) the competence (Com) system that regulates competence; and 2) a bacteriocin-like peptide (Blp) system that regulates the production of bacteriocins. Both functions are widespread in the genus. In S. pneumoniae, the Blp QS system shares a common ancestor and has similar features to the Com QS system. However, the evolutionary relationship between these QS systems remains obscure.SUCRE methodology was developed to identify the QS homologous genes in the streptococcal species. SUCRE uses four complementary approaches: homology search, putative gene finding, regulon construction, and evolutionary analysis. The performance of SUCRE was assessed in comparison with other orthology detection methods. SUCRE is precise in identifying the QS homologous genes and has similar performance to OrthoMCL. The QS system structures are found to be conserved across the streptococcal species.A streptococcal species phylogeny was constructed from the ribosomal and tRNA synthetase gene families. Using the QS genes identified from SUCRE and the streptococcal species phylogeny, the study infers the evolution of the QS systems in Streptococcus species. The study shows that the QS systems evolved as a regulon unit. The paralogous relationship between each of the QS systems suggests that duplication has a huge influence on functional divergence of the QS systems in the genus. Although, horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is commonly found in bacteria, little evidence is found to support that the effect of HGT on the functional divergence of the QS systems in this genus. However, the QS regulon genes of the same QS system are found to be non- vertically transferred across species that signifies that the HGT event promotes the sequence variation between these genes.

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Original languageEnglish
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Award date31 Dec 2015