WALNUT CREEK, CA–The DOE Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) every year reveals the wonders of DNA sequencing to thousands of avid students, teachers, researchers, and community members drawn through the portal of its Walnut Creek, Calif., Production Genomics Facility. Visitors often ask the question: what becomes of those billions of letters of genetic information churning out of the DNA sequencers every month?
On April 24-25, in the spirit of both Earth Day and National DNA Day, DOE JGI will host a Microbial Genomics Workshop geared toward revealing the rest of the story–the bioinformatics end–to educators who may then spread the word in their classrooms and inspire students to pursue careers in this burgeoning field. A team of DOE JGI researchers will demonstrate the computational methods that they and their collaborators around the world use to harness the potential of the largely untapped microbial world for the development of clean bioenergy alternatives, a better understanding of the global carbon cycle, and novel bioremediation applications.
Microbes, the oldest and most abundant form of life on Earth, inhabit nearly every environment and can thrive under extreme conditions of heat, cold, pressure, and radiation. Although microbes represent the vast majority of life on the planet, more than 99% have not been cultured, so their genomic diversity has gone largely unrecognized and unutilized.
Starting with an animated overview of the sequencing process, workshop participants, armed with laptop computers, will explore the tools that enable the order and assembly of the DNA fragments into strands that serve as starting material for the search for genes and other important features in microbial genomes.
The workshop will also touch on the newly launched Integrated Microbial Genomes for metagenomic data (IMG/M), through such case studies as the isolation and study of the microbial community within the hindgut of the termite, one of nature’s most powerful bioreactors for the production of hydrogen. Metagenomics refers to the emerging discipline of isolating, sequencing, and characterizing DNA extracted directly from environmental samples–to obtain a metabolic profile of the microbial community residing in a particular niche.
The DOE Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest, along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE mission related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and clean-up. DOE JGI’s Walnut Creek, Calif. Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges.