Genome transplantation in bacteria

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The folks at the Craig Venter Institute, having patented the technology for creating a synthetic organism, now have at least part of the process working: they report that they can take an entire bacterial genome from one organism and pop it into another, essentially “re-booting” the cell as a new species. The next step, obviously, is to synthesize a custom genome that does something you find worthwhile (digests some nasty chemical, if you’re feeling eco-conscious…or produces a nasty chemical, if you’re feeling more war-like), and create your own bacteria.

One interesting thing (from a methodological standpoint) about this procudre is that it appears to involve inducing the fusion of the two cells (the researchers don’t actually know; they just see the outcome), making it somewhat similar to procedures for creating hybrid cell types in mammals. It’s something of an unexpected connection between bacterial transformation and cell fusion.



  1. if they create just the minimal genome necessary for life, is this bacteria ‘just getting by’? i mean, if you start telling it to do something really energetically expensive … like chew up a pollutant that it isn’t using for fuel … won’t you need to tinker with other areas of the minimal genome to make metabolic space?

  2. Hi 
    I actually wrote a post about this as well. I don’t add very much relative to what you wrote aside from a brief critique on the press releases which describe this as a step toward creating “artificial life”. However, feel free to take a look at: 

  3. I don’t know that a minimal genome would imply an organism existing on some sort of metabolic knife-edge. Lack of adaptability, now that I could believe. I’d expect that as long as you maintained your tailored organism in an environment to its liking it could have spare energy to burn…