Interdisciplinary Training

Elizabeth Lester

"Structural Genomics of Helicobacter pylori Essential Genes"

Structural Genomics promises functional annotation for the large collections of sequenced genes that have no experimental data. Following in the footsteps of sequencing projects, structural genomics initiatives attempt systematic structure determination for whole genomes, working toward sample structures to represent all gene families. How useful protein structures are for discovering the function of uncharacterized genes is not generally questioned. In this project, we explore how structural information can suggest directions for biochemical and genetic experiments, through a close collaboration of structural and functional studies. We focus on a group of uncharacterized genes categorized by a minimal phenotype, essentially, in a specific organism, the human gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori. H. pylori infection, in addition to causing most gastric ulcers, is strongly correlated with gastric cancer, the second leading cancer worldwide. Infection is widespread, extending to half the world population. The essential genes, particularly genes with no obvious orthologs outside the immediate relatives in the epsilon proteobacteria, are potentially interesting both in developing drugs and understanging the specific biology of H. pylori.