The projects of 14 Biosciences Area scientists and engineers received funding through the FY20 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. The funded projects span a diverse array of topics and approaches including: developing closed-loop plastics from biogenic feedstocks; reimagining a root system optimized for plant-microbe interactions; and creating computational tools for extracting macromolecular conformational dynamics. Lab-wide, 96 projects were selected from a field of 168 proposals. Biosciences Area efforts account for 18.5 percent of the $23 million allocated.
Yarrowia lipolytica is a tantalizing microbial factory, capable of turning abundant biomass carbohydrates—glucose and xylose—into fatty acids that could be used for renewable fuel. In fact, lipids can make up more than 90 percent of the microbe’s dry weight.
In order to better harness these gobs of energy, a team of researchers sought to disrupt every gene in the genome with CRISPR-Cas9 in order to interrogate each one’s function. However, the team first needed to fix a defect in the approach: CRISPR-Cas9 relies on RNA with a short guiding sequence (20 bp) that directs the endonuclease where to cut, but these “single guide” RNAs (sgRNAs) can be faulty. Without a good sgRNA, Cas9 is ineffective and leaves the target gene intact: a false negative if the gene is actually essential.
Through the JGI’s Community Science Program, the scientists thus set out to identify which sgRNA sequences were reliable. Click here to read the science highlight on the JGI website.
Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) and Biosciences Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) division researchers have released 1,003 reference genomes for diverse bacteria and archea isolated from environments ranging from sea water and soil, to plants, and to cow rumen and termite guts. The release is the largest to date from JGI’s Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA) initiative, which seeks to fill in unexplored branches of the tree of microbial life. JGI’s Supratim Mukherjee and Rekha Seshadri were co-first authors on the paper published in Nature Biotechnology; senior author Nikos Kyrpides and co-authors Natalia Ivanova, Axel Visel, Tanja Woyke, and Yasuo Yoshikuni have secondary affiliations with EGSB. The genomes are publicly available through the Integrated Microbial Genomes with Microbiomes (IMG/M) system. Read more on the JGI website.
Tapping the DNA synthesis expertise of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), a team from the Max-Planck-Institute (MPI) for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany has reverse engineered a biosynthetic pathway for more effective carbon fixation. Read more at JGI News.