Thursday, 20 May 2010

First Cell Controlled by Synthetic Genome

Scientists have developed the first cell controlled by a synthetic genome. They now hope to use this method to better understand the basic machinery driving all life and to engineer bacteria specially outfitted for fuel production, for example, or environmental cleanup.

The research team has already chemically synthesized a bacterial genome, and they have transplanted the genome of one bacterium to another. Now, Daniel Gibson and colleagues have put both methods together, to create what they call a “synthetic cell,” although only its genome is synthetic. In this case, the synthetic genome was a copy of an existing genome, though with added DNA sequences that “watermark” the genome to distinguish it from a natural one.

In the future, the scientists would like to design more novel genomes that would make bacteria capable of performing specific tasks that could help solve energy, environmental or other problems. The team first synthesized the genome of Mycoplasma mycoides, then transplanted it into Mycoplasma capricolum. The new genome “booted up” the recipient cells.

Although fourteen genes were deleted or disrupted in the transplant bacteria, they still looked like normal M. mycoides bacteria and produced only M. mycoides proteins, the authors report. “If the methods described here can be generalized, design, synthesis , assembly and transplantation of synthetic chromosomes will no longer be a barrier to the progress of synthetic biology,” they write.

To support public discussion and understanding of synthetic biology, Science will be making this paper and the accompanying News piece freely available online, at, starting Thursday evening, 20 May.

Article #19: "Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome," by D. Gibson; J.I. Glass; C. Lartigue; V.N. Noskov; R.-Y. Chuang; M.A. Algire; M.G. Montague; L. Ma; M.M. Moodie; C. Merryman; S. Vashee; R. Krishnakumar; N. Assad-Garcia; C. Andrews-Pfannkoch; E.A. Denisova; L. Young; Z.-Q. Qi; T.H. Segall-Shapiro; C.H. Calvey; P.P. Parmar; J.C. Venter at J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, MD; G.A. Benders; C.A. Hutchinson III; H.O. Smith; J.C. Venter at J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, CA.

Contact: J. Craig Venter at (email). Daniel Gibson at (email).

Reproduced from email by the AAAS Office of Public Programs.

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