Scientists create first synthetic chromosome for yeast
Scientists have made a breakthrough in the field of synthetic biology by creating an artificial chromosome for complex cell organisms (eukaryotes) first time ever.
The fungi and people are closely related biologically as both are eukaryotes and their cells have nuclei with several linear chromosomes in them along with lots of other complex and well defined structures called organelles. The yeast being an eukaryote, is genetically much more complex, with an 11 million base-pair genome, compared to the 583,000 base-pairs of Craig Venter's synthetic bacterial genome. Bacteria are prokaryotes whose cells do not have either nuclei or organelles and have their DNA arranged in small, circular chromosomes within their cells.
For the past seven years, scientists and a host of undergraduate students painstakingly stitched together short strands of DNA to complete the chromosome. This achievement involved the use of computer-aided design to construct the synthetic version. The project is part of a global initiative called Sc2.0 that aims to eventually fabricate all of the yeast’s chromosomes.
The synthetic version, which the scientists call synIII is actually a slimmed-down version of the yeast's naturally occurring chromosome III, which has 316,667 base pairs. The team picked this chromosome because it is the smallest and controls how yeast cells mate and undergo genetic change and responsible for reproduction. The team have shown that yeast cells carrying this synthetic chromosome are remarkably normal. They behave almost identically to wild yeast cells, only they now possess new capabilities and can do things that wild yeast cannot. For example, such methods could be used to improve yeast's ability to thrive in harsh environmental conditions, such as very high concentrations of alcohol.