Transplanting a Genome
Scientists successfully transform one bacterial species into another
SOURCE: “Genome Transplantation in Bacteria: Changing One Species to Another”
John I. Glass et al.
Science online, June 28, 2007
RESULTS: Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, MD, have transferred the entire genome of one bacterium into another bacterium. The host bacterium took on characteristics of the donor–for example, producing proteins specific to that species.
WHY IT MATTERS: Venter and his colleagues aim to build genomes from scratch and transplant them into bacterial cells in order to create custom-made microörganisms, including ones that produce fuel. Successful genome transplant techniques will be necessary to complete this process.
METHODS: The scientists isolated the DNA of one species of mycoplasma, a type of bacterium with a very small genome, and gave it an additional gene to make it resistant to an antibiotic. The DNA was then transplanted into a related mycoplasma species. As the host bacteria grew and divided in the presence of the antibiotic, cells carrying only the species’ original chromosomes died, leaving just the cells with the transplanted chromosome.
NEXT STEPS: Venter Institute researchers will next try to determine whether or not genome transplantation is possible in other species of bacteria. They are also developing a synthetic version of the genome of a different species of mycoplasma, which they will attempt to transplant as well.