Unveiling Obelisks- A New Frontier in Microbial Ecology

Image depicting the groundbreaking discovery of "Obelisks," a new genetic entity, unveiling an entirely new class of virus, revolutionizing our understanding of microbial ecology.
Unveiling Obelisks- A New Frontier in Microbial Ecology

A groundbreaking discovery in the field of microbiology has unveiled a new genetic entity known as 'obelisks' within bacteria residing in the human gut and mouth.

This discovery challenges existing classifications and promises to revolutionize our understanding of microbial ecology within the human body.

Groundbreaking Finding:

  • Published in the prestigious journal Cell, researchers from Locanabio, a San Diego-based biotech company, analyzed RNA sequence datasets from thousands of bacterial samples constituting the human microbiome.
  • Out of 5.4 million bacterial RNA sequences screened, over 220,000 sequences from gut bacteria revealed the presence of tower-shaped genetic elements termed 'obelisks.'
  • Further investigation identified nearly 30,000 distinct varieties of obelisks within human oral microbes.

Defining Traits of Obelisks:

  • Obelisks are composed of RNA and proteins, enabling them to self-replicate within bacterial cells.
  • Unlike traditional viruses, obelisk genes perform consistent functions across different bacterial strains.
  • They propagate vertically from parent to offspring cells within bacteria and integrate loosely into the bacterial genome without causing cell damage.

A New Addition to Biology Textbooks:

  • Researchers advocate for classifying obelisks as a third fundamental domain in the tree of life, alongside viruses and viroids.
  • Obelisks possess their own replication machinery, distinguishing them from viruses and viroids that rely on host machinery for reproduction.

Ubiquity Across Geographies:

  • Obelisks exhibit widespread presence in human microbiomes across diverse ethnicities and continents.
  • Samples collected from various countries across Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and the U.S. consistently revealed the presence of obelisks in both gut and oral bacteria.
  • This universal presence underscores the integral role of obelisks in shaping human microbiomes globally.

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