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US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute announces new genome sequencing projects
Date:7/2/2008

inside of a larger organism. These leverage DOE JGI's pioneering expertise honed from previous studies of acid mine drainage and the termite hindgutwhere samples yielded scores of different microbes, producing hundreds of enzymes with potentially useful industrial applications.

One such metagenome lurks inside of Bankia setacea, the giant Pacific shipworm. Shipworms, wood-boring marine bivalves, have been nicknamed "termites of the sea." These animals are capable of feeding solely on wood, utilizing a highly efficient system of symbiotic lignocellulose degradation that is biologically, functionally, and evolutionarily distinct from those found in termites, ruminants, and all other cellulose-consuming animals. Like termites, the ability of shipworms to consume wood depends on symbiotic bacteria that provide enzymes, including cellulases and other hydrolases critical for digestion of wood by the host and potentially valuable for commercial bioconversion of lignocellulose to ethanol. Analysis of the shipworm symbiont community metagenome will provide important insights into the composition and function of this unique lignocellulose degrading bacterial community and will allow valuable comparisons to the recently sequenced termite symbiont metagenome. Unlike termites, shipworms accomplish the complete degradation of lignocellulose with a simple intracellular consortium of just a few related types of microbes. The project was proposed by Daniel Distel of the Ocean Genome Legacy Foundation.

Another marine organism, Botryococcus braunii, is a colony-forming green microalga, less than 10 micrometers in size, that synthesizes long-chain liquid hydrocarbon compounds and sequesters them in the extracellular matrix of the colony to afford buoyancy. A type of B. braunii produces a family of compounds termed botryococcenes, which hold promise as an alternative energy source. Botryococcenes have already been converted to fuel suitable for internal combus
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-296-5643
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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