Sutton G, Fogel GB, Abramson B, Brinkac L, Michael T, Liu ES, Thomas S

A pan-genome method to determine core regions of the Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli genomes.

F1000Research. 2021-04-13; 10.286.

Synthetic engineering of bacteria to produce industrial products is a burgeoning field of research and application. In order to optimize genome design, designers need to understand which genes are essential, which are optimal for growth, and locations in the genome that will be tolerated by the organism when inserting engineered cassettes. We present a pan-genome based method for the identification of core regions in a genome that are strongly conserved at the species level. We show that the core regions determined by our method contain all or almost all essential genes. This demonstrates the accuracy of our method as essential genes should be core genes. We show that we outperform previous methods by this measure. We also explain why there are exceptions to this rule for our method. We assert that synthetic engineers should avoid deleting or inserting into these core regions unless they understand and are manipulating the function of the genes in that region. Similarly, if the designer wishes to streamline the genome, non-core regions and in particular low penetrance genes would be good targets for deletion. Care should be taken to remove entire cassettes with similar penetrance of the genes within cassettes as they may harbor toxin/antitoxin genes which need to be removed in tandem. The bioinformatic approach introduced here saves considerable time and effort relative to knockout studies on single isolates of a given species and captures a broad understanding of the conservation of genes that are core to a species.

PMID: 34113437