Microbiologist will sequence termite genome

News Release — 1 July 2009


Media contact: Sue Stevens, Senior Media Relations Officer, 817- 272-2761, sstevens@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - Dr. Jorge Rodrigues, a University of Texas at Arlington microbiologist, has been selected for a highly competitive genome sequencing project by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. Rodrigues will sequence the genome of a microorganism isolated from a termite's hindgut as part of an effort to identify solutions to climate change.

The Joint Genome Institute's Community Sequencing Program, the largest genome sequencing effort in the world focused on non-medical organisms, enables scientists to probe the hidden world of microbes and plants for innovative solutions to major challenges in energy, climate and environment.

"The information we generate from these projects promises to improve the clean, renewable energy pathways being developed now, as well as to lend researchers more insight into the global carbon cycle, options for bioremediation and biogeochemicals processes," said Eddy Rubin, director of the Joint Genome Institute, headquarted in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Each year, the Joint Genome Institute selects projects based on scientific merit
and relevance to issues in global warming, alternative energy production and bioremediation. Projects are judged by an independent peer review committee. Seventy-one projects were chosen for 2010 from applications worldwide.

Termites break down 1 billion tons of plant biomass every year.  In order to accomplish this, wood-feeding termites are entirely dependent on microbes. Rodrigues submitted a project to sequence the genome of the Verrucomicrobium spinosum strain TAV2, a termite microorganism.

Rodrigues said the strain he will sequence is known to contain genes coding for novel cellulase and xylanase, enzymes with the capacity to break down cellulose. In addition, this microorganism has the genetic capability for biological nitrogen fixation and could help with the maintenance of nitrogen balance for the microbial community and its termite partner.

JGI will provide sequencing support and computational analysis for the project with its specialized state-of-the-art equipment. See http://www.jgi.doe.gov/sequencing/espseqplans2010.html for a complete list of the 2010 sequencing projects.



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