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Streptococci Can Generate DNA using Human Urine: Study | Biology

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Streptococcus agalactiae, a commensal urogenital tract bacterium and opportunistic pathogen, can produce new DNA using human urine, according to new research from Griffith University.

Streptococcus agalactiae (round spheres) on the surface of the bladder where they encounter urine to make their DNA. Image credit: Glen Ulett.

Streptococcus agalactiae (round spheres) on the surface of the bladder where they encounter urine to make their DNA. Image credit: Glen Ulett.

Dr. Matthew Sullivan and his colleagues from Griffith University found that guaA, a specialized gene that encodes guanosine monophosphate synthetase, allows it to exploit natural chemicals found in urine as a way to produce new DNA.

“Some people may know that DNA is made up of 4 different chemical building blocks, often termed A, C, T, and G,” Dr. Sullivan said.

“It’s long been known how our cells make DNA, which carries the recipe for life in an encoded message.”

“This new DNA is required by the bacteria to grow and reproduce, and thus, is essential to the process of microbial infection within the human body.”

“It’s basically a survival strategy to colonize the urine, an environment that not many organisms can live in.”

Bacteria can scavenge for chemicals in order to make DNA, but the team’s paper highlights that Streptococcus agalactiae has the ability to synthesise its own precursors to DNA.

“It seems to be a common strategy among species of bacteria that make up the microbiome of the urine,” Dr. Sullivan said.

“Understanding how bacteria such as Streptococcus agalactiae and other microbes in the human microbiome can make new DNA from molecules in the body was an important step in identifying new ways to control microbial growth,” he added.

“Research like this gives us new opportunities to develop alternative treatments in a world with increasing antibiotic resistance due to overuse of existing medicines.”

“For example, we could target this pathway in efforts to design new drugs to prevent infection.”

“Overall, the study illuminates the importance of fundamental discoveries that help us perceive how microorganisms interact with humans.”

The findings were published in the ISME Journal.

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D.S. Ipe et al. Conserved bacterial de novo guanine biosynthesis pathway enables microbial survival and colonization in the environmental niche of the urinary tract. ISME J, published online March 1, 2021; doi: 10.1038/s41396-021-00934-w

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