Bioinformatics in microbial biotechnology – a mini review
Arvind K Bansal
Department of Computer Science, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242, USA
The revolutionary growth in the computation speed and memory storage capability has fueled a new era in the analysis of biological data. Hundreds of microbial genomes and many eukaryotic genomes including a cleaner draft of human genome have been sequenced raising the expectation of better control of microorganisms. The goals are as lofty as the development of rational drugs and antimicrobial agents, development of new enhanced bacterial strains for bioremediation and pollution control, development of better and easy to administer vaccines, the development of protein biomarkers for various bacterial diseases, and better understanding of host-bacteria interaction to prevent bacterial infections. In the last decade the development of many new bioinformatics techniques and integrated databases has facilitated the realization of these goals. Current research in bioinformatics can be classified into: (i) genomics – sequencing and comparative study of genomes to identify gene and genome functionality, (ii) proteomics – identification and characterization of protein related properties and reconstruction of metabolic and regulatory pathways, (iii) cell visualization and simulation to study and model cell behavior, and (iv) application to the development of drugs and anti-microbial agents. In this article, we will focus on the techniques and their limitations in genomics and proteomics. Bioinformatics research can be classified under three major approaches: (1) analysis based upon the available experimental wet-lab data, (2) the use of mathematical modeling to derive new information, and (3) an integrated approach that integrates search techniques with mathematical modeling. The major impact of bioinformatics research has been to automate the genome sequencing, automated development of integrated genomics and proteomics databases, automated genome comparisons to identify the genome function, automated derivation of metabolic pathways, gene expression analysis to derive regulatory pathways, the development of statistical techniques, clustering techniques and data mining techniques to derive protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions, and modeling of 3D structure of proteins and 3D docking between proteins and biochemicals for rational drug design, difference analysis between pathogenic and non-pathogenic strains to identify candidate genes for vaccines and anti-microbial agents, and the whole genome comparison to understand the microbial evolution. The development of bioinformatics techniques has enhanced the pace of biological discovery by automated analysis of large number of microbial genomes. We are on the verge of using all this knowledge to understand cellular mechanisms at the systemic level. The developed bioinformatics techniques have potential to facilitate (i) the discovery of causes of diseases, (ii) vaccine and rational drug design, and (iii) improved cost effective agents for bioremediation by pruning out the dead ends. Despite the fast paced global effort, the current analysis is limited by the lack of available gene-functionality from the wet-lab data, the lack of computer algorithms to explore vast amount of data with unknown functionality, limited availability of protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions, and the lack of knowledge of temporal and transient behavior of genes and pathways.
Source: Microbial Cell Factories 2005, 4:19.
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