NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute will support 71 new sequencing projects to advance its bio-energy and climate research programs, including using a variety of sequencing methods on a range of microbes and microbial communities, DOE JGI said today.
The research projects supported in 2010 through the JGI Community Sequencing Program will involve whole-genome sequencing, single cell sequencing, resequencing of bacteria, and metagenomics of microbial communities, JGI said.
The research programs will include studies of 15 eukaryotes, 20 microbes, 20 microbial community metagenomes, and 8 bacteria for resequencing.
"The information we generate from these projects promises to improve the clean, renewable energy pathways being developed now as well as lend researchers more insight into the global carbon cycle, options for bioremediation, and biogeochemical processes," DOE JGI Director Eddy Rubin said in a statement today.
"In translating DNA sequence data into biology, we generate valuable science that improves our understanding of the complex processes that support life on the planet, or imperil it," Rubin added.
A central aim of this round of CSP projects is the development of cost-effective cellulosic biofuels from plant fiber that is not used for food, and development of enzymes that could be used to break down those fibers into sugars that could be converted into fuels.
One project will sequence the microbes in the gut of the desert locust, known as a crop-ravager, in order to study their digestive capabilities. Other gut microbe studies will conduct sequencing on 11 plant-digesting insects from New Zealand and 3 termites from Australia.
Another goal of the program is to develop better techniques of fermenting plant-derived sugars into liquid fuels. To that end, one project will focus on E. coli mutants that have been developed to have higher alcohol tolerances that enable them to produce alcohols such as isobutanol that have energy densities similar to gasoline.
Another research program will sequence a member of the mustard family to discover better methods of breeding crops, including those for biofuel feedstocks, and another will study microbes in Alaskan permafrost to understand climate change in water quality and carbon capture.
Some of the research programs will focus on environmental remediation, such as the sequencing of the 240 millio-nucleotide genome of fire moss, which often is found in disturbed areas such as soils contaminated with heavy metals.
Other such bioremediation programs include a freshwater bacterium that can remove manganese contaminants, and another that breaks down a toxic and carcinogenic pollutant found in Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites.
These projects were selected based on scientific merit through peer review and on their relevance to DOE missions, said JGI.