In this in silico talk, SIB’s Hatice Akarsu Egger introduces a new (computational) dream destination for microbiologists: TASmania. This user-friendly web-interface compiles over 2 million putative Toxin-Antitoxin loci (TAS) from over 41,000 bacterial genome assemblies, and enables users to identify and discover existing and new TAS, as well as associated networks, in a given genome.

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A poison and its antidote, encapsulated in the genome

Toxin-Antitoxin System or TAS are one of the fascinating tricks Nature found to give the ability to prokaryotes to deal with particular situations, such as stress. They are pairs of adjacent genes, one coding for a ‘poison’ (the toxin), the other coding for the corresponding antidote (the antitoxin). When all goes well, the toxicity is counterbalanced by the effect of the antitoxin – but under stress, the toxin gets released, leading to range of negative outcomes for the cell, from cellular growth arrest to cell suicide. TAS are thus involved in a range of mechanisms, from nutritional stress to biofilm dynamics or antibiotic resistance. They are thus of interest from evolutionary, clinical and biotechnological perspectives.

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Mining and discovering TAS in bacterial genomes

A tool now offers microbiologists to uncover annotated TAS from a dataset of over 41,000 bacterial genome assemblies, the largest to date. Thanks to a relaxed underlying TAS structure model, TASmania also retrieve hits that are not picked up by other tools, which rely on more constrained models. In this in silico talk, SIB’s Hatice Akarsu Egger, Postdoctoral researcher in Laurent Falquet’s Bioinformatics Unraveling Group at the University of Fribourg, offers a brief review of what TAS are before describing the underlying model of TASmania and providing examples of what the resource can be used for.

Akarsu H et al. TASmania: A bacterial Toxin-Antitoxin Systems database. PLoS Comput Biol. 2019

TASmania logo web

Logo by Noémie Matthey (University of Lausanne)