The synthesis of an entire organellar genome, the mouse mitochondrium, from synthetic 60 nucleotide fragments, is published online this week in Nature Methods. This work may open the door for the rapid design of small genomes with any modification of choice.
Though Daniel Gibson and colleagues had previously created a bacterial genome from synthetic parts, the assembly of this genome was laborious and expensive. Here the authors optimize the assembly process into a fast and largely automatable process that can be carried out in test tubes and is amenable to any sequence. The team demonstrates the potential of their optimized approach by synthesizing the 16.3 kilobase mouse mitochondrial genome from 600 overlapping oligonucleotides. Although they do not functionally test the organelle, they propose ways to do so. This assembly approach should therefore aid the process of synthesizing of any genetic element of choice from small building blocks.