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Development of advanced genetic toolbox for Sinorhizobium meliloti to enable genome scale engineering

2015 Disruptive Innovation in Genomics Competition
Agriculture and Agri Food
Genome Centre(s):
Ontario Genomics
Project Leader(s):
Turlough Finan (McMaster University)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Phase 1 Project

In synthetic biology, it is possible to envision the construction of organisms that are altered via multiple changes to their genome for qualities such as enhanced disease resistance, drought tolerance or superior levels of production. For many organisms, however, there is a lack of genetic tools and even simple genomic manipulations are still difficult. Cloning whole chromosomes or large DNA fragments of the donor genome in surrogate host strains such as yeast, where genetic manipulations can be performed, can dramatically reduce these limitations.

Drs. Turlough Finan, Bogumil Karas and Trevor Charles are developing a bacterial surrogate host system (Sinorhizobium meliloti) that allows replication and engineering of large DNA fragments and their efficient transfer into both bacterial and eukaryotic host cells, a transfer that is not currently possible with yeast. Thus large DNA fragments or whole chromosomes will be cloned in S. meliloti, engineered and reintroduced back to the original organism. In addition to its general application for genome engineering, the S. meliloti surrogate host-system technology can be used in short-term technology developments, including the generation of large insert metagenomic DNA libraries for bioprospecting.

The project will development synthetic biology expertise in Canada focused on whole genome manipulation, as well as the use of the surrogate host system for genome engineering. The project will also provide the foundation for future development of commercial applications, including for the production of bioplastics (polyhydroxyalkanoates) from waste methane or methanol.