The Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has published the initial “volume” of the Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA). Presenting a provocative glimpse into this uncharted territory, an analysis of the first 56 genomes representing two of the three domains of the tree of life appears in the December 24 edition of the journal Nature….Most studies in microbiology have exploited a narrow subset of the evolutionary diversity of bacteria and archaea known to exist, and were selected more for convenience (and because they cause diseases) rather than the opportunity to advance discovery science. From the tree of microbial diversity the genomes from only a few branches have been sequenced. The DOE JGI is now exploring Earth’s microbial “dark matter” with a project to sequence little-studied microbial species that will inform other microbes and complex microbial communities.“The main driver behind the GEBA project is that while the currently available sequenced genomes cover a wide range of biological and functional diversity, they have not covered a wide enough range of phylogenetic diversity,” said senior author Jonathan Eisen, DOE JGI Phylogenomics Program Head and University of California, Davis Professor. “What distinguishes GEBA is that it is less about the individual genomes and more about building a more balanced catalog of the diversity of genomes present on the planet which in turn should facilitate searches for novel functions and our understanding of the complex processes of the biosphere.
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