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Evolutionary secrets of the gut microbiome

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How does our gut respond and adapt to changing conditions? Where does this fundamental and critical flexibility come from? Technion scientists are unraveling the genius of the gut's microbiome, through microbiota, all the way to genetic inversion.
A phase-variable Type-I R-M system in B. fragilis. (A) Gene map of the region. hsdR – restriction enzyme; hsdM- methylase; The colored region of BF9343_1757-60, represents the phase-variable inverting regions of hsdS (specificity genes). (B) Genetic regions showing the specificity genes. i-iv show the different DNA inversions that can occur in this region between inverted repeats shown as dashed lines. Only the outlined gene is transcribed. (C) The eight specificity gene combinations possible from the different DNA inversions. (D) EtBr-stained agarose gel of the amplicons detecting each of the six specificity half genes in the expression locus. Each fragment was amplified using primer F1 paired with each of the six reverse primers.

Assistant Professor Naama Geva-Zatorsky and doctoral student Nadav Ben-Assa of the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, in collaboration with scientists from Harvard University, have decoded a reversible genetic inversion mechanism that helps a bacterial species of the gut microbiota deal with changes in its habitat. Their findings are published in Nucleic Acids Research, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of Oxford University Press.

The human microbiota refers to the collection of microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc.) that colonize the inner and outer surfaces of the human body. The human intestine…
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