June 27, 2013

Metagenomics: hunting for new genes by sequencing seas samples

Mass DNA sequencing has led to a better knowledge of marine micro-organisms in their environment and helps to discover new genes of interests. However, it is only part of the answer for biotech applications.

One litre of sea water contains about one billion bacteria. This represents at least one thousand species, in addition to the single-cell organisms different from bacteria—referred to as protists—which make up plankton, according to Daniel Vaulot, a researcher at the Station biologique de Roscoff, located in the Brittany region of France. Studying each of these organisms by mass-sequencing their genome could lead up to discover new species. It could also help study species potentially interesting for fundamental research on the origins of life and climate change, or for applications in the industry. Raising the awareness of the possibilities of marine genomics among the wider research and industry communities is precisely what the EU-funded Marine Genomics for Users (MG4U) project is designed to do. Its coordinator, Bernard Kloareg who is the director the Roscoff station, is himself an advocate of marine genomics.