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The J. Craig Venter Institute is a non-profit genomics research institute founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D. in October 2006. The Institute was the result of consolidating four organizations: the Center for the Advancement of Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research , the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives, and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation Joint Technology Center. It has facilities in Rockville, Maryland and La Jolla, California.The Institute studies the societal implications of genomics in addition to genomics itself. The Institute's research involves genomic medicine; environmental genomic analysis; clean energy; synthetic biology; and ethics, law, and economics. The Institute employs over 400 people, including Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith. Wikipedia.

Haft D.H.,J. Craig Venter Institute
Current Opinion in Microbiology | Year: 2015

Bioinformatics looks to many microbiologists like a service industry. In this view, annotation starts with what is known from experiments in the lab, makes reasonable inferences of which genes match other genes in function, builds databases to make all that we know accessible, but creates nothing truly new. Experiments lead, then biocuration and computational biology follow. But the astounding success of genome sequencing is changing the annotation paradigm. Every genome sequenced is an intercepted coded message from the microbial world, and as all cryptographers know, it is easier to decode a thousand messages than a single message. Some biology is best discovered not by phenomenology, but by decoding genome content, forming hypotheses, and doing the first few rounds of validation computationally. Through such reasoning, a role and function may be assigned to a protein with no sequence similarity to any protein yet studied. Experimentation can follow after the discovery to cement and to extend the findings. Unfortunately, this approach remains so unfamiliar to most bench scientists that lab work and comparative genomics typically segregate to different teams working on unconnected projects. This review will discuss several themes in comparative genomics as a discovery method, including highly derived data, use of patterns of design to reason by analogy, and in silico testing of computationally generated hypotheses. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Background: Enzymes in the radical SAM (rSAM) domain family serve in a wide variety of biological processes, including RNA modification, enzyme activation, bacteriocin core peptide maturation, and cofactor biosynthesis. Evolutionary pressures and relationships to other cellular constituents impose recognizable grammars on each class of rSAM-containing system, shaping patterns in results obtained through various comparative genomics analyses.Results: An uncharacterized gene cluster found in many Actinobacteria and sporadically in Firmicutes, Chloroflexi, Deltaproteobacteria, and one Archaeal plasmid contains a PqqE-like rSAM protein family that includes Rv0693 from Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Members occur clustered with a strikingly well-conserved small polypeptide we designate "mycofactocin," similar in size to bacteriocins and PqqA, precursor of pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). Partial Phylogenetic Profiling (PPP) based on the distribution of these markers identifies the mycofactocin cluster, but also a second tier of high-scoring proteins. This tier, strikingly, is filled with up to thirty-one members per genome from three variant subfamilies that occur, one each, in three unrelated classes of nicotinoproteins. The pattern suggests these variant enzymes require not only NAD(P), but also the novel gene cluster. Further study was conducted using SIMBAL, a PPP-like tool, to search these nicotinoproteins for subsequences best correlated across multiple genomes to the presence of mycofactocin. For both the short chain dehydrogenase/reductase (SDR) and iron-containing dehydrogenase families, aligning SIMBAL's top-scoring sequences to homologous solved crystal structures shows signals centered over NAD(P)-binding sites rather than over substrate-binding or active site residues. Previous studies on some of these proteins have revealed a non-exchangeable NAD cofactor, such that enzymatic activity in vitro requires an artificial electron acceptor such as N,N-dimethyl-4-nitrosoaniline (NDMA) for the enzyme to cycle.Conclusions: Taken together, these findings suggest that the mycofactocin precursor is modified by the Rv0693 family rSAM protein and other enzymes in its cluster. It becomes an electron carrier molecule that serves in vivo as NDMA and other artificial electron acceptors do in vitro. Subclasses from three different nicotinoprotein families show "only-if" relationships to mycofactocin because they require its presence. This framework suggests a segregated redox pool in which mycofactocin mediates communication among enzymes with non-exchangeable cofactors. © 2011 Haft; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Source

Juhas M.,University of Zurich | Eberl L.,University of Zurich | Glass J.I.,J. Craig Venter Institute
Trends in Cell Biology | Year: 2011

Essential genes are absolutely required for cell survival. Determination of the universal minimal set of genes needed to sustain life is, therefore, expected to contribute greatly to our understanding of life at its simplest level, with applications in medicine and synthetic biology. The search for the minimal genome has led to the identification of often variable gene sets. We argue here that, based on the outcome of these analyses, it is becoming increasingly evident that some genes, and the functions encoded by them, are absolutely necessary for the survival of any living entity, whereas others can be omitted. We also examine ways of determining the minimal genome and discuss possible practical applications of a minimal cell. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Gibson D.G.,J. Craig Venter Institute | Gibson D.G.,Synthetic Genomics, Inc
Nature Methods | Year: 2014

The DNA technologies developed over the past 20 years for reading and writing the genetic code converged when the first synthetic cell was created 4 years ago. An outcome of this work has been an extraordinary set of tools for synthesizing, assembling, engineering and transplanting whole bacterial genomes. Technical progress, options and applications for bacterial genome design, assembly and activation are discussed. © 2014 Nature America, Inc. Source

McLean J.S.,J. Craig Venter Institute
Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology | Year: 2014

Oral microbes represent one of the most well studied microbial communities owing to the fact that they are a fundamental part of human development influencing health and disease, an easily accessible human microbiome, a highly structured and remarkably resilient biofilm as well as a model of bacteria-bacteria and bacteria-host interactions. In the last 80 years since oral plaque was first characterized for its functionally stable physiological properties such as the highly repeatable rapid pH decrease upon carbohydrate addition and subsequent recovery phase, the fundamental approaches to study the oral microbiome have cycled back and forth between community level investigations and characterizing individual model isolates. Since that time, many individual species have been well characterized and the development of the early plaque community, which involves many cell-cell binding interactions, has been carefully described. With high throughput sequencing enabling the enormous diversity of the oral cavity to be realized, a number of new challenges to progress were revealed. The large number of uncultivated oral species, the high interpersonal variability of taxonomic carriage and the possibility of multiple pathways to dysbiosis pose as major hurdles to obtain a systems level understanding from the community to the gene level. It is now possible however to start connecting the insights gained from single species with community wide approaches. This review will discuss some of the recent insights into the oral microbiome at a fundamental level, existing knowledge gaps, as well as challenges that have surfaced and the approaches to address them. Source

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