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Biologist Joachim Messing talks about origin of genomics and semi-synthetic genes


On June 7, Prof. Joachim Messing delivered a lecture entitled “Origin of Genomics and Semi-synthetic Genes” as part of the Qizhen Global Vision Lecture Series at Zhejiang University.

Joachim Messing is a professor of Molecular Biology and the director of the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the German National Academy of Sciences. He won the World Technology Award in Biotechnology and the 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture. The shotgun DNA sequencing method and the M13mp/pUC/JM cloning kits are widely applied in the domains of life sciences and become the cornerstone of the biotechnology and genomics revolution.

In the late seventies and early eighties, Messing and his colleagues developed the shotgun DNA sequencing method with single and paired synthetic universal primers. The method is based on fragmenting DNA into small sizes, purifying them by cloning, and defining the start of sequencing with a short oligonucleotide.Because fragmentation produces overlapping fragments, sequences can be concatenated by overlapping sequence information, thereby reconstructing contiguous sequences, which was first exemplified by the complete structure of a plant DNA virus.

In the lecture, Prof. Messing shared with the audience the vision and process of the shotgun DNA sequencing method and the M13mp/pUC/JM cloning kits, talked about the significance of high-throughput sequencing and visualized the prospect for improving grain yields with low breeding costs and reducing arable land, thus saving people from starvation and improving the quality of life in a greener way.

Recently, his laboratory has studied the sequencing of rice. This genomic sequence has permitted his laboratory to study the organization and evolution of the genes that control the supply of proteins for nutrition. More recently, his laboratory has used RNA interference to study the role of these proteins in seed development and molecular breeding. One of the new initiatives of his laboratory investigates the potential of sweet sorghum and duckweed as alternative bio-energy sources. Interestingly enough, genetic proliferation results in the adjustment of individual genes, therefore offering a new clue to the organization and function of plant chromosomes.