Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Neo: A Novel Protein in Bacterial Defense


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Neo Protein, Reverse Transcriptase

Why in the News?

“Klebsiella pneumoniae” bacteria might employ a newly discovered protein called “Neo” to halt bacteriophage infections.

About Neo Protein

  • Discovery Details: Researchers, led by Stephen Tang and Samuel Sternberg, reported the discovery of Neo in a 2023 preprint paper on bioRxiv, while investigating Klebsiella pneumoniae.
  • Neo’s Defense Strategy: Bacteria employ diverse immune systems to fend off viral infections, including defense-associated reverse transcriptase (DRT) systems, which Neo is a part of.
    • DRT-2 System: This system involves de novo gene synthesis via rolling-circle reverse transcription (RT) of a non-coding RNA (ncRNA).
    • Operational Process: In uninfected cells, the ncRNA and RT enzyme catalyze the synthesis of a repetitive single-stranded cDNA.
    • Activation by Phage: Phage presence triggers the synthesis of the second-strand cDNA, resulting in long double-stranded DNA.
    • Role of Neo Protein: The translation of this double-strand cDNA produces the Neo protein, which induces potent growth arrest (cell dormancy), thereby protecting the bacterial population from phage proliferation.

Biotechnological and Medical Implications

  • Potential Applications: Neo represents a promising tool for controlling viral infections, holding significance in both biotechnology and medicine.
  • Evolutionary Connections: Neo’s discovery sheds light on the shared evolutionary history and functional mechanisms of retroelements in the human genome and bacterial reverse transcriptases.
  • Technological Influence: Bacterial reverse transcriptases, predecessors of their eukaryotic counterparts, share analogous mechanisms and have revolutionized molecular biology research methods.

What is Reverse Transcriptase?

  • Reverse transcription, the conversion of RNA into DNA, is facilitated by the enzyme reverse transcriptase.
  • Discovered by Howard Temin and David Baltimore in 1970, reverse transcriptase has transformed molecular biology research, particularly in studying RNA viruses like HIV.
    • Practical Applications: Reverse transcriptase is instrumental in gene cloning, PCR techniques, genome analysis, and viral load detection in diagnostics, such as the case of SARS-2, aiding in virus surveillance, healthcare management, and vaccine development efforts.



[2019] What is Cas9 protein that is often mentioned in the news?

(a) A molecular scissors used in targeted gene editing.

(b) A biosensor used in the accurate detection of pathogens in patients.

(c) A gene that makes plants pest-resistant.

(d) A herbicidal substance synthesized in genetically modified crops.

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