Biotech Updates

"Flipping" Genetic Switch Reveals New Compounds with Antibiotic Potential

November 6, 2013

Oregon State University researchers have discovered that a gene in common fungus acts as a master regulator, and deleting it has opened access to a wealth of new compounds. These compounds have never been studied before and have the potential to be identified as new antibiotics.

The scientists succeeded in flipping a genetic switch that had silenced more than 2,000 genes in the cereal pathogen Fusarium graminearum. Until now, this had kept it from producing novel compounds that may have useful properties, particularly for use in medicine but also perhaps in agriculture, industry, or biofuel production.

The gene that was deleted, kmt6, encodes a master regulator that affects the expression of hundreds of genetic pathways, and regulates the methylation of histones, the proteins around which DNA is wound. Creating a mutant without this gene allowed new expression, or overexpression of about 25 percent of the genome of this fungus, and the formation of many secondary metabolites.

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