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March 13, 2007

Six Million New Genes Found on Ocean Sampling Expedition

  • Researchers from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) have discovered millions of genes, thousands of protein families, and specifically the characterization of thousands of protein kinases from ocean microbes. The researchers believe this data could eventually offer new ideas for alternative energy production and solutions to environmental issues.

    "This publication is not only providing an unprecedented level of new genes and protein family discoveries, but is also pivotal in that we have provided compelling analysis of evolution and function of these genes and proteins within the larger context of organisms interacting with their environment," notes J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder and chairman of the Institute. "Given the findings, it's clear that we've only begun to scratch the surface of understanding the microbial world around us."

    Reporting in PLoS Biology, the scientists say that the Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS) nearly doubles the number of previously known proteins. The researchers used this data to better understand the genomic structure and evolution of microorganisms, as well as the function of important protein families such as protein kinases, which are key regulators of cellular function in all organisms.

    The Sorcerer II Expedition began with a pilot project in 2003 in the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda in which more than one million new genes and hundreds of new photoreceptors were discovered in what was thought to be an area of low diversity. The GOS publication is a result of ocean water sampling conducted from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the Eastern Tropical Pacific during the two-year circumnavigation.

    The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the United States Department of Energy, Office of Science, funded the sequencing and analysis of the Expedition. The JCVI funded the operation of the vessel.