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EP/H032436/1 - SANDPIT: Multi-scale dynamics and gene communities

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Professor AJ McKane EP/H032436/1 - SANDPIT: Multi-scale dynamics and gene communities

Principal Investigator - Physics and Astronomy, The University of Manchester

Other Investigators

Dr SP Brown, Co InvestigatorDr SP Brown

Professor RA Goldstein, Co InvestigatorProfessor RA Goldstein

Professor JJT Gough, Co InvestigatorProfessor JJT Gough

Scheme

Standard Research

Research Areas

Biological Informatics Biological Informatics

Mathematical Analysis Mathematical Analysis

Start Date

09/2010

End Date

08/2013

Value

£609,731

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Grant Description

Summary and Description of the grant

Evolution has mostly been studied in the context of the higher organisms, where the transfer of genetic material is almost always from parents to offspring. However some years ago it was discovered that bacteria, by contrast, are able to transfer genetic material directly between individuals. The first type of transfer is called vertical and the second type horizontal. So when we talk about bacteria evolving, we are referring to the genes which they contain, and horizontal transfer is a way of changing this content. From the point of view of the genes, the bacteria are habitats where the genes can reside, just like an ecosystem such as a forest or lake is a habitat where plants and animals can reside. So while the survival and reproduction of genes and the bacteria they live in are related, the fact that genes are not bound to a specific organism means that their interests are not identical. So genetic material transferred between bacteria can evolve strategies that can either help or hurt the bacteria. These are referred to as mutualism and parasitism respectively. This means that the mechanism of natural selection may take place at two levels: at the genetic level and at the level of the organism, and that these may be in conflict with each other. This conflict is played out in the ways that the genes interact with each other, and how these interactions determine the properties of the bacterium in which they are found. Evolution is a process which is random, and there is evidence that randomness is important in the horizontal transfer of genes. The analysis of systems made up of a large number of interacting objects, which have a degree of randomness, is an important area of applied mathematics. So far, however, progress in analysing these systems mathematically has lagged behind their study using computer simulations. We propose to develop an appropriate mathematical analysis of horizontal gene transfer in bacteria. We will be guided by computer simulations and also by databases of the distribution of genes in a wide range of different organisms. The final theory, although developed for a specific biological situation, can provide a model for mathematical treatments of other interacting random systems, which are found widely in physical, biological, and social contexts. It will also address an important theoretical problem in biology. We have already referred to the fact that selection can happen at the lower (genetic) level and the higher (organism) level. There could in principle be more than two levels, leading to what is called multi-level selection. In this case entities (genes, bacteria,...) at each level can reproduce, mutate and compete with each other. We will also gain greater understanding of the way that genes in bacteria move around, and so gain some insight into the current diversity of bacteria which is observed. This should allow for the monitoring and managing of new infections and antibiotic resistance.

Structured Data / Microdata


Grant Event Details:
Name: SANDPIT: Multi-scale dynamics and gene communities - EP/H032436/1
Start Date: 2010-09-01T00:00:00+00:00
End Date: 2013-08-31T00:00:00+00:00

Organization: The University of Manchester

Description: Evolution has mostly been studied in the context of the higher organisms, where the transfer of genetic material is almost always from parents to offspring. However some years ago it was discovered that bacteria, by contrast, are able to transfer genetic m ...