Genome complexity: Smallest gene count for life (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 21:13 (1163 days ago) @ David Turell

Venter's team dos not now what one-third of the genes do but they cannot be removed for life to continue:

"Scientists say they've pared down a microbe's genome to the minimum necessary for life - a mere 473 genes - but they still don't know what a third of those genes do.

“'These findings are very humbling in that regard,” said genomics pioneer Craig Venter, one of the authors of the study published today by the journal Science.

"Syn 3.0 builds on two decades of work to figure out the genetic mechanisms of life - including the creation of Syn 1.0, the first organism to make use of a synthesized genome.

***

"The other challenge had to do with those 149 mystery genes. Because the functions of the genes are unknown, the researchers didn't know they were needed until they were gone. That shows how far geneticists still have to go in understanding how life works.

“'We know about two-thirds of essential biology. We're missing a third,” Venter said.

Project leader Clyde Hutchison, a researcher at the J. Craig Venter Institute, said some of the genes appear to play a role in transporting small molecules around the cell. But the details still have to be worked out, and that's a priority for future research, he said.

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"Syn 3.0 isn't likely to stand as the ultimate minimal genome for life. For one thing, the code was optimized so that it reproduced readily in a lab medium rather than in the natural environment. For another, different species may well have different sets of essential genes. “There will be lots of minimal genomes as these same approaches get applied to other types of biological cells,” Venter said.

"The fact that researchers are still in the dark about a third of even the smallest viable genome is likely to serve as a cautionary tale as researchers take greater advantage of gene-editing tools. “It's vastly premature to talk about editing the human genome until we know a whole lot more,” Venter said.

"Venter said the project also suggests that it's too limiting to think about life's machinery in purely gene-centric terms. “I think we've shown that we need a genome-centric view of life, looking at functions across the genome,” he said. “Life is much more like a symphony orchestra than a piccolo player.'”

Comment: Layer upon layer of complexity. Obviously more than just coding for proteins.


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