Katherine Karberg and Gary Olsen
Gary Olsen Laboratory
Funded by NASA and the DOE
How do new genes arise? Microbes live in diverse and extreme environments —from deep-sea hydrothermal vents, to salt marshes, to the human gut. To survive, microbes obtain genes from other organisms, essentially stealing evolutionary solutions for living in challenging environments. Each dot in this image represents a single gene from one of several strains of bacteria. The dots’ colors and positions highlight similarities and differences in the ways that the genetic code, the correspondence between DNA sequence and protein structure, is used in each gene. This study has given researchers new perspective on how microbes share novel and disease-associated genes.