Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: The Who, the What, the Why and the How


 

Synthetic biology moves beyond bacteria and viruses with 'man-made' yeast chromosome

31 March 2014

By Rhys Baker

Appeared in BioNews 748

The world's first functional synthetic yeast chromosome has been created in an international seven-year effort.

It is the first time a working chromosome from a eukaryotic organism - one that has cells containing a nucleus - has been artificially created. Synthetic biology's prior milestones were mainly in bacteria or viruses, organisms that do not have nuclei.

Researchers hope that synthetic strains of yeast could eventually be used to produce vaccines or biofuels.

According to lead researcher Professor Jef Boeke, director of New York University Langone Medical Center Institute for Systems Genetics: 'It is the most extensively altered chromosome ever built. But the milestone that really counts is integrating it into a living yeast cell. We have shown that yeast cells carrying this synthetic chromosome are remarkably normal. They behave almost identically to wild yeast cells, only they now possess new capabilities and can do things that wild yeast cannot'.

To make their goal as realisable as possible, the researchers decided to work on one of the smallest chromosomes in brewer's yeast. They chose the 315,000-letter long chromosome III. To further facilitate the task, the team cut out 'junk' DNA – DNA that doesn't code for proteins. This trimmed their synthetic creation – synIII – down to 270,000 letters, without killing the yeast.

The team then changed the order of the gene code somewhat, adding and removing chunks of DNA, using a scrambling technique that shuffled the remaining DNA sequence like a deck of cards. This was a very deliberate process. 'We spent about a year debating what changes we should build into the chromosome so we could really learn something from the experience', Professor Boeke told New Scientist.

To build the final DNA sequence, the team divided the chromosome up into sections that were 750 letters long and could be assembled fairly easily. Sixty undergraduate students then 'stitched' these small sections together.

Finally, Boeke's team inserted the SynIII chromosome into yeast cells, replacing the natural chromosome III. Professor Boeke told BBC News: 'What's really exciting about it is the extent to which we have changed the sequence and still come out with a happy, healthy yeast at the end'.

The synthesis of chromosome III is the first stage of an international project to synthesise yeast's entire genome. Teams at several institutions in the USA, Imperial College London (UK), Tianjin University and BGI-Shenzhen (China) are each tackling one of brewer's yeast's 16 chromosomes.

The scientists say an entirely synthetic yeast genome could bring considerable benefits in many applications. Dr Yizhi Cai, a researcher at Edinburgh University and paper co-author, told The Guardian: 'With this technology, we can re-engineer and customise organisms. We could make much sleeker genomes for organisms that would be useful for making biofuels and other industrial applications'.

The study was published in the journal Science.

 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

08 May 2017 - by Annabel Slater 
Human DNA could be artificially synthesised in around five years or less, according to one of the organisers behind the Genome Project-write plan...
13 March 2017 - by Jamie Rickman 
An international team has rewritten the genetic code of five chromosomes in yeast – one third of the organism's entire genome...
30 January 2017 - by Dr James Heather 
Scientists have developed bacteria which can live and grow with DNA containing extra 'letters'...
06 June 2016 - by Rebecca Carr 
A group of 25 scientists have proposed an ambitious plan to create a synthetic human genome from scratch...
23 May 2016 - by Arit Udoh 
A group of scientists has been criticised for holding a high-level, behind-closed-doors meeting to discuss a project to synthesise a complete human genome within ten years...

15 April 2013 - by David O'Rourke 
Synthetic biology is being used in the hunt for a vaccine for H7N9, the new strain of bird flu emerging in China, with hopes it could shave a vital two weeks off the development process...
28 January 2013 - by Daryl Ramai 
Digital information can be reliably stored in DNA, say scientists...
23 April 2012 - by Ana Pallesen 
Six new kinds of artificial genetic material have been created by scientists. These XNAs, or xeno-nucleic acids, have similar life-building properties to naturally-occurring DNA...
02 April 2012 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
Synthetic biology, which uses genetic engineering to build new genomes and organisms, has come under attack in a report published by Friends of the Earth and supported by over 100 other 'public interest' groups...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Sue Avery

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Philippa Taylor

Dr César Palacios-González

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT
if you book now


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation