Researchers at the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocessing (QIBEBT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) operated on a single-celled alga to remove nonessential genes using a genomic scalpel technique. The goal is to create an organism that will produce biofuels from CO2 with maximum efficiency.
Scientists in China have isolated a 100-kb genome from one type of oil-producing microalgae, removing genes that are not needed for it to function. Thus, they have created a “genome scalpel” that can quickly and cut the genomes of microalgae.
The resulting microalgae with a “minimal genome” will potentially be useful as a model organism for further study of the molecular and biological function of each gene.
The research is published in The Plant Journal.
The creation of a “minimal genome” —a genome devoid of all duplicated or apparently dysfunctional “junk genes” —is useful for investigating fundamental questions about genetic function and for designing cell factories that produce valuable compounds.
Such minimal genomes are designed for simple organisms, but rarely for eukaryotic organisms, including algae or plants. In higher eukaryotes, garbage regions can occupy up to 70% of the genome. Removing what appears to be unwanted genes can actually have harmful effects on the body or even kill it.
For the first time, researchers at QIBEBT have created a genome with targeted deletions of 100 kb each for a type of algae called Nannochloropsis oceanica.