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Mar 10, 2017 11:22 AM EST

Scientists Have Shortcut Evolution Through This Synthetic Yeast Genome


Through a collaboration of hundreds of scientists across different continents, a new synthetic yeast genome has been created with the ability to produce microbes that can secrete thousands of micro and macromolecules that are useful to humans. The genome can be easily manipulated and reshuffled to produce a better strain.

The Synthetic Yeast 2.0 project or Sc2.0 started as an idea among scientists at the John Hopkins University Medical School in 2006. Jef Boeke, who was the director of the High Throughput Biology Center of the university at that time and Srinivasan Chandrasegaran, a biochemist were discussing what it would be like to create all the DNA in a yeast from scratch.

Creating such kind of genome would give yeasts better ability to produce chemicals that will be useful for industrial purposes, such as producing antibiotics and industrial enzymes. That would be possible if they can create a yeast genome which researchers can customize for whatever compound they want to make. To do this, they have to remove the destabilizing DNA from the yeast genome and refactor it.

They did this by introducing 5000 DNA tags in the entire genome. These tags will serve as some sort of a landing site for Cre, a protein which can create on-demand mutations on the organisms.

When Cre interacts with the estrogen, it can delete, duplicate, and shuffle the genes in whatever way it wants. Once the chromosomal sequences are reshuffled, scientists can expose it to different stresses or manipulate them to create different molecules.

Through this process, it will be quicker and easier for scientists to identify which strains will have better survival in certain environments or which strains can produce better things, such as drugs and fuels. As Patrick Cai, a former postdoctoral student at John Hopkins, described it as speeding up the natural selection process.

Various studies and research have been done on this synthetic genome and were published in the journal Science.

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