A team of international scientists and researchers from the Bigelow Lab for Ocean Services has created a suite of more than 200 new genetic techniques to investigate marine microbes for the biomedical and food supplement industries. The tools are an essential step forward in understanding the cellular instructions that underpin microbial life in the sea. The new techniques will allow scientists to perform genetic experiments on marine microbes.

Senior Research Scientist José Fernández Robledo works in his laboratory at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Fernández Robledo is one of the lead authors on a paper detailing more than 200 new genetic techniques for using marine microbes to investigate a host of questions in biology. Source: Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean SciencesSenior Research Scientist José Fernández Robledo works in his laboratory at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Fernández Robledo is one of the lead authors on a paper detailing more than 200 new genetic techniques for using marine microbes to investigate a host of questions in biology. Source: Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

The bottleneck in microbial oceanography is a lack of experimental model systems. The diversity of microbes is promising, but researchers have never had the tools to explore them. This project catalyzed the development of genetic tools needed to research microbes, which have the potential to provide new products for the biomedical and food supplement industries.

The research supported the development of genetic tools for a group of microbes called protists. Protists are diverse single-cell organisms. They are one of the least understood marine microbes. The team used advanced molecular techniques to create a new approach to study Crypthecodinium, microalgae used as a food supplement.

One of the techniques developed can insert DNA into crypthecodinium. This was the first step toward identifying the roles of organisms’ genes and investigate the genome.

The team succeeded in introducing DNA into marine protists. They are now working to employ genetic techniques to interrogate microbial genomes. This would allow scientists to identify the functions of specific genes and potentially harness beneficial applications.

The team shared the protocols in a group called Protists Research to Optimize Tools in Genetics. A paper was published in Nature Methods.