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MBio. 2012 Mar 20;3(2). pii: e00001-12. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00001-12. Print 2012.

Genotype-phenotype associations in a nonmodel prokaryote.

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Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


To help define the biological functions of nonessential genes of Francisella novicida, we measured the growth of arrayed members of a comprehensive transposon mutant library under a variety of nutrition and stress conditions. Mutant phenotypes were identified for 37% of the genes, corresponding to ten carbon source utilization pathways, nine amino acid- and nucleotide-biosynthetic pathways, ten intrinsic antibiotic resistance traits, and six other stress resistance traits. The greatest surprise of the analysis was the large number of genotype-phenotype relationships that were not predictable from studies of Escherichia coli and other model species. The study identified candidate genes for a missing glycolysis function (phosphofructokinase), an unusual proline-biosynthetic pathway, parallel outer membrane lipid asymmetry maintenance systems, and novel antibiotic resistance functions. The analysis provides an evaluation of annotation predictions, identifies cases in which fundamental processes differ from those in model species, and helps create an empirical foundation for understanding virulence and other complex processes.


The value of genome sequences as foundations for analyzing complex traits in nonmodel organisms is limited by the need to rely almost exclusively on sequence similarities to predict gene functions in annotations. Many genes cannot be assigned functions, and some predictions are incorrect or incomplete. Due to these limitations, genome-scale experimental approaches that test and extend bioinformatics-based predictions are sorely needed. In this study, we describe such an approach based on phenotypic analysis of a comprehensive, sequence-defined transposon mutant library.

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