Multinational effort underway to build synthetic yeast using artificial chromosomes

July 12, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Sacharomyces cerevisiae cells in DIC microscopy. Credit: Wikipedia.

( —A multinational effort to replicate the genome of brewer's yeast has been launched. Led by Professor Jef Boeke of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, and with teams in China, India, Great Britain and other countries, the goal of the effort is to build artificial chromosomes to replace the 16 normally found in yeast cells. If successful, the effort will mark the first time the entire genome of an organism with a nucleus has been artificially replicated.

Besides the possibility of providing new insights into how chromosomes work, the project hopes to also serve as a means of learning how to program an organism by altering its . Yeast with , for example, could be programmed to serve as an engine to manufacture antibiotics, vaccines, biofuels, etc., instead of alcohol.

A team of scientists successfully replaced the DNA of a bacteria cell back in 2010, but it had no nucleus, meaning it was a much simpler organism. Replicating all of the chromosomes in a yeast cell will require far more effort. For that reason, the work has been split between teams working at various facilities around the world. Each team will design one chromosome on a computer, which will then be sent to a central facility for its actual creation. Once all of the teams have built their chromosomes, a single yeast cell will be stripped of its natural chromosomes to be replaced by their artificial counterparts—giving it an entirely artificial . The project is expected to be expensive—the British team alone has received £1m from the U.K government to fulfill its part in the project which is expected to be completed by 2017.

The yeast cell was picked for the project because it is a relatively —it's one celled and has only 6000 genes. One the other hand, it's sufficiently complex to further the science of bioengineering. Another plus is that yeast, because of its ability to convert sugars to alcohol, is seen as a becoming a more useful organism if its DNA could be controlled directly by creating new in the lab and replacing the ones that nature gave it.

Explore further: 'Synthetic' chromosome permits repid, on-demand 'evolution' of yeast

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not rated yet Jul 12, 2013
is seen as a becoming a more useful organism if its DNA could be controlled directly by creating new chromosomes in the lab and replacing the ones that nature gave it

Which will terrify some people.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2013
Once positive results are in.....more research projects would be expected to gush in like Tsunami & Flow.

It is just a matter of that fact glaring us in front that would cause the spurt!
1 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2013
I will bet that after any number of years they will never be able to predict the exact results of any particular set of gene changes.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2013
I will bet that after any number of years they will never be able to predict the exact results of any particular set of gene changes.

It is certainly a Very Dangerous Trend....leading to Self-Destruction. On the other hand....something new...probably good too.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2013
Holy Grail is creation of a Chimpanzee's Zygote from Scratch; Of course, immediate need is for an yeast cell with possibilities for production of massive amounts of gasoline pouring in from thin air.
not rated yet Jul 15, 2013
No... just no. Although the task of "replicating a yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) from a natural DNA counterpart" may seem outstanding it is both small and huge at the same time. We have a fairly good grasp of making YACs for our purposes but the duplication and exchange of a chromosome meant to mimic natural function is a whole different story. This type of move requires intimate knowledge of the various structures, functions, and post-replication modifications of the chromosome of interest. This research is very unlikely dangerous in and of itself but of course, in the wrong hands anything can be dangerous.

What this does is set up the framework to produce more complicated synthetic organisms by understanding the complex pathways involved with replacing an existing genome with a new one.

One day instead of transfecting small oligo's or other covalently closed circular DNAs, perhaps we will be inserting whole new chromosomes with new quantification methods.

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