NEW YORK, March 5 – Integrated Genomics of Chicago and BASF have jointly sequenced and annotated the genome of Corynebacterium glutamicum using Integrated Genomics’ ERGO bioinformatics software, the companies said Monday.
C. glutamicum is responsible for fermentation, the process of converting sugar to the amino acid lysine. If biotechnology companies can harness the knowledge of this bacterial genome to produce this amino acid, the companies believe they may be able to tap into a huge market. In the year 2000, about 450,000 tons of this amino acid were sold at a global value of over $613 million, the companies said.
The companies analyzed C. glutamicum ’s genome in order to pinpoint the genes that were active in fermentation. “The function for the approximately 1500 never-before identified genes was determined and patent applications were filed”, Markus Pompejus, project manager of lysine research at BASF said in a statement.
The companies then used ERGO, which models cell function, to develop a model metabolic network of how C. glutamicum ferments sugar into lysine. “Now we know who the enzymatic actors are and how they interact with each other,” said Pompejus.
ERGO includes a curated database of 600,000 ORFS from about 300 microbial genomes, as well as over 3,500 biochemical pathways. The system simulates cell function using the ORFs and pathways, as well as genetic, physiological and structure data.
Integrated Genomics, which is headed up by a team of molecular biologists from the University of Chicago, aims to use ERGO and other programs to solve the problem of how to derive cellular function from sequence data.
The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their collaboration.