First-ever minimal cell blueprint more complex than expected

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Washington, Nov 27 (ANI): A new model of the minimal cell is proving to be a lot more complicated than expected, say scientists.

The new model was created by a consortium of experts, based at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), in Heidelberg, Germany, and the Centre de Regulacio Genomica (CRG), in Barcelona, Spain.

The group has been fascinated with questions about early life for quite some time and decided to investigate the matter in more depth.

They did so through three studies, which they published in the latest issue of the top journal Science.

Their research was based on Mycoplasma pneumoniae, the bacteria that causes atypical pneumonia.

The new line of work has already revealed a number of new things about the biology of the simple microorganisms that are bacteria, and proved that even the most seemingly simple cell is in fact much more complex than anyone would have thought.

M. pneumoniae was selected as the main subject of the new investigation because it is a very small, single-cell bacteria and because it's one of the smaller prokaryotes out there today.

These organisms are called that because they lack a cellular nucleus and also do not rely on other organisms' abilities in order to reproduce.

A large surprise that experts in the group had was discovering that a large number of cells inside the organism were in fact multi-functional.

They also found enzymes that were involved in catalyzing a large number of completely-different reactions, which means that they had not evolved a high degree of specialization.

"At all three levels, we found M. pneumoniae was more complex than we expected", says Luis Serrano, co-initiator of the project at EMBL and now head of the Systems Biology Department at CRG. (ANI)

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