Researchers make their own E. coli genome, compress its genetic code

Like any other E. coli, but different.

Enlarge / Like any other E.
coli, but different. (credit: CDC)

The genetic code is the basis for all life, allowing the
information present in DNA to be translated into the proteins that
perform most of a cell’s functions. And yet it’s… kind of a mess.
Life typically uses a suite of about 20 amino acids, while the
genetic code has 64 possible combinations. That mismatch means that
redundancy is rampant, and a lot of species have evolved variations
on what would otherwise be a universal genetic code.

So is the code itself significant, or is it something of a
historic accident, locked in place by events in the distant
evolutionary past? Answering that question hasn’t been an option
until recently, since individual codes appear in hundreds of
thousands of places in the genomes of even the simplest organisms.
But as our ability to make DNA has scaled up, it has become
possible to
synthesize entire genomes from scratch
, allowing a wholesale
rewrite of the genetic code.

Now, researchers are announcing that they have redone the genome
of the bacteria E. coli to get rid of some of the genetic code’s
redundancy. The resulting bacteria grow somewhat more slowly than a
normal strain but were otherwise difficult to distinguish from
their non-synthetic peers.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Researchers make their own E. coli genome, compress its genetic code