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.

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3 Comments

  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: 
     
    http://omnomescience.blogspot.com/2007/06/gene-swap-meet.html

  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…

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