Students Sequence Genome of New Bacterium

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 22 (UPI) — A team of high school and college students says it has sequenced the genome of a new bacterium discovered in a Virginia Tech garden.

Assistant Professor Boris Vinatzer said the bacteria strain belongs to the plant pathogen species Pseudomonas syringae. He said one bacterium of the group, strain 642, was isolated at the university’s Hahn Horticulture Garden and is the first bacterium isolated on the Virginia Tech campus to have its genome sequenced.

“I collaborated with John Kowalski’s high school students at the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology, undergraduate students from Concord University in West Virginia and graduate students at Virginia Tech to teach about the role of bacteria in the environment and, in particular, their importance to plants, using a hands-on approach,” Vinatzer said.

Found on a wide variety of plants, many strains of P. syringae cause plant diseases such as bacterial blight, spot, speck, stripes and canker, Vinatzer said. However, P. syringae strain 642 did not cause disease on any tested plant species.

“Because the bacterium we isolated and sequenced is non-pathogenic itself, but is very similar to pathogens, we can compare its genome to the genomes of the closely related pathogens and see what mechanisms bacteria use to cause disease and how bacteria evolve to become pathogens,” Vinatzer said.

The study was detailed in the February issue of the journal Molecular-Plant Microbe Interactions.

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