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A Journal on Biotechnology and Molecular Biology

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Minerva Biotecnologica 2005 March;17(1):47-53

language: English

Metagenomes - an unlimited resource for novel genes, biocatalysts and metabolites

Voget S. 1, Steele H. 2, Streit W. R. 2

1 Institut of Microbiology and Gentics, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany;
2 Division of Molecular Enzyme Technology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany


In this review we outline the general concept of metagenomics. It is well known that less than 1% of the microbial world can be accessed using classical culturing approaches. Metagenomics attempts to overcome this bottleneck by introducing culture independent approaches. Since the metagenome technology has been introduced just a few years ago a number of significant advances have been made. Among them the partial shot gun sequencing of the Sargasso Sea, the near complete sequencing of an acid mine biofilm and the partial sequence analysis of a drinking water biofilm. These projects have led to the accumulation of more than one million novel genes and DNA sequences, which however, remain to be exploited within the next decade. Probably one of the most significant contributions which were made concerns the detection of a novel light dependent energy conservation mechanism in marine microorganisms. In addition to these achievements an increasing number of novel biocatalyst genes and genes encoding for novel drugs have been detected. These genes are of considerable interest to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. Many of these genes are currently exploited for downstream applications. Thus with respect to basic science the metagenome technology gives us new insights into the genetic makeup of microbial communities and helps us to understand how these microbial communities function. Concerning biotechnological and pharmaceutical applications the genomes of the non-cultured microbes represent a shear unlimited and very valuable resource for novel biocatalysts and genes encoding for antibiotics or other drug molecules. Metagenomics will now unlock this vast potential for biotechnological and pharmaceutical applications.

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