Method will be applied to human genome to learn more about how our proteins interact to carry out biological functions Sequencing a genome is getting cheaper, but making sense of the resulting data remains hard.
By cataloging subtle evolutionary signatures shared between pairs of genes in bacteria, the team was able to discover hundreds of previously unknown protein interactions.
This method is now being applied to the human genome, and could produce new insights into how human proteins interact.
It's remarkable that they can now be predicted en masse using the large amounts of genomic sequence data that have been generated in recent years," said senior author David Baker, professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"Co-evolution has been useful for understanding how specific proteins interact, but we can now use it as a tool for discovery," said lead author Qian Cong, a postdoctoral fellow at the UW School of Medicine.
The research team compared more than 4,000 genes from E. coli to DNA sequences from more than 40,000 other bacterial genomes.
One of these, an interaction between a protein toxin and its antitoxin, may help explain, the researchers speculate, why some E. coli dominate their microbial niche.