Two BER supported Scientists Named in Science’s Top 10 for 2004


In an article in the December 17, 2004, issues of Science, entitled, “Genes, Genes Everywhere” the work of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research-funded scientists Craig Venter and Jill Banfield was highlighted as one of the top science stories of 2004. Venter has studied the Sargasso Sea, “deciphering genomes from life in 1500 liters of water” and turning up more than a million new genes that had never been seen before. One startling result is the suggestion that a gene whose product had hitherto been thought of as a light receptor is used by many marine bacteria to process carbon. Venter is now retracing Charles Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle to explore diversity in the oceans from around the globe. Another team of environmental genomicists headed by Jill Banfield at the University of California in Berkeley has focused on a small microbial community more than a kilometer down, inside an abandoned mine, where local pH values are less than 1 and there is no light. These organisms, classified into only 5 major species, get their energy by processing iron compounds. The repertoire of enzymes found in each of the five microbes indicated that they had a close relationship. Additional communities are now under study. This story spotlights ongoing work on environmental genomics which takes the most advanced genome sequencing technologies and focuses them on the genomes of entire communities. Much of this work was pioneered by DOE investments in sequencing complex community DNA samples.