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Discovery of Neo Protein in Bacterial Defence Mechanisms


Recent research has discovered a novel protein, referred to as “Neo,” which plays a critical role in bacterial defence mechanisms against viral infections, particularly bacteriophages.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Neo
  2. Reverse Transcriptase

About Neo

Discovery and Background
  • Research Team: Led by Stephen Tang and Samuel Sternberg, reported in a 2023 preprint paper on bioRxiv, while studying Klebsiella pneumoniae.
  • Bacterial Defense Mechanism: Bacteria defend against viral infections (bacteriophages) using diverse immune systems that sense and target foreign nucleic acids. One such system is the Defense-associated Reverse Transcriptase (DRT) system.
DRT-2 System Mechanism
  • Gene Synthesis: In the DRT-2 system, bacteria undergo de novo gene synthesis via rolling-circle reverse transcription (RT) of non-coding RNA (ncRNA).
  • Synthesis Process:
    • Uninfected Bacterial Cells: ncRNA and RT enzyme lead to the synthesis of a repetitive single-stranded cDNA.
    • Phage Presence: Triggers the second-strand cDNA synthesis, producing long double-stranded DNA.
    • Function of cDNA: Generates messenger RNAs that encode a stop codon-less, never-ending open-reading frame (neo). The translation of the neo protein causes potent growth arrest (cell dormancy) in bacteria, protecting the population from phage spread.
Significance in Biotechnology and Medicine
  • Potential Tool: Represents a potential biotechnological tool for controlling viral infections.
  • Evolutionary Insights: Retroelements in the human genome and bacterial reverse transcriptases share a common evolutionary history and functional mechanisms.
  • Precursors: Bacterial reverse transcriptases are believed to be precursors of their eukaryotic counterparts, exhibiting analogous mechanisms.

Reverse Transcriptase

  • Function: Enables cells to create DNA copies from RNA, a process called reverse transcription, performed by the enzyme reverse transcriptase.
  • Discovery: Discovered by Howard Temin and David Baltimore in 1970, revolutionizing molecular biology research methods.
  • Gene Cloning: Used in molecular biology to clone genes.
  • PCR: Performs Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
  • Genome Analysis: Analyzes genomes.
  • Diagnostics: Detects and quantifies viral loads, such as in SARS-2, aiding in tracking virus spread, surveillance, public healthcare, and vaccine development.

-Source: The Hindu

June 2024