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Tools from the Human Genome Project reveal a versatile microbe

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Now that the human genome has been sequenced, sequencing know-how is turning to other organisms. A team of researchers, including some from the University of Iowa, has sequenced the genome of a highly versatile and potentially useful bacterium. The multidisciplinary effort determined the complete genetic sequence of Rhodopseudomonas palustris, a bacterium that could potentially be used for cleaning up toxic industrial waste and as a biocatalyst for producing hydrogen as a bio-fuel.

The research, conducted by scientists in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine together with colleagues from Ohio State University (OSU), the University of British Columbia and the United States Department of Energy's (DOE) Joint Genome Institute, appeared in Nature Biotechnology advance online publication on Dec. 14.

Caroline Harwood, Ph.D., UI professor of microbiology and senior author of the study, explained that the opportunity to investigate this bacterium's genes arose from DOE interest in sequencing microbial genomes. These organisms have capabilities that could be useful in tackling environmental issues such as energy production, global warming and bioremediation of toxic waste.

In 1997 the DOE established the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to help sequence the human genome. With the completion of the human genome, the DOE has turned the JGI's considerable sequencing know-how to other projects, one of which is sequencing microbial genomes.

Rhodopseudomonas palustris (R. palustris) was chosen for sequencing for a number of reasons. It is very good at producing hydrogen, which could be useful as a bio-fuel, and it can degrade chlorine- and benzene-containing compounds that are often found in industrial waste. It also can remove carbon dioxide, a gas associated with global warming, from the atmosphere.

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Labo
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Contact: Jennifer Brown
jennifer-l-brown@uiowa.edu
319-335-9917
University of Iowa
14-Dec-2003


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