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New method of DNA editing allows synthetic biologists to unlock secrets of a bacterial genome
Date:12/5/2013

m Streptomyces griseus, a species of soil bacterium. They added a promoter before each gene in the cluster to increase expression, and inserted the cluster into a related bacterial species, Streptomyces lividans, that is easier to grow in a laboratory setting.

The resulting bacterial strain expressed all the genes in the previously silent cluster, and produced several previously unknown compounds. These compounds belonged to a class of natural products called polycyclic tetramate macrolactams or PTMs, many of which have useful biomedical applications. By examining the compounds produced by strains missing one of the six genes in the cluster, the researchers were able to discover the function of each gene's encoded protein, leading to a better understanding of how bacteria synthesize PTMs.

Zhao sees the work as an important step toward a larger goal: to create a generalized, automated high-throughput method to reconstruct any biochemical pathway in a target experimental organism. Zhao is the leader of the recently formed Biosystems Design Research Theme at the Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, and development of this type of method is a major goal of the Theme.

"We want the technology platform established, then we can actually work on mammalian systems, on plant systems, on microorganisms," said Zhao. Yet his ultimate motivation is the discovery of potentially useful biochemicals: "It's very likely some of the compounds will turn into new drugs, and that's very exciting."


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Contact: Nicholas Vasi
nvasi@illinois.edu
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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