News of the WeekMicrobiology

Genome Links Typhus Bug to Mitochondrion

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Science  13 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5392, pp. 1243
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5392.1243

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In this week's issue of Nature, researchers describe the complete sequence of the 1.1-million-base-pair genome of Rickettsia prowazekii, the bacterium that causes typhus. The information may help researchers design better typhus vaccines and is also opening a window to the distant past. Researchers think that the mitochondria, the small structures that serve as the cell's powerhouses, were derived from bacteria that took up permanent residence in an early ancestor of modern cells. Comparisons of ribosomal RNA genes had indicated that Rickettsia could be the closest living relative of the mitochondria's predecessor; the sequence data appear to confirm this, and also provide insights into the gene losses that have helped make R. prowazekii dependent on the cells it infects in order to multiply.