The Genomic Science program aims to develop a predictive understanding of biological systems relevant to energy production, environmental remediation, and climate change mitigation. Genomic Science program research is conducted at national laboratories and universities and includes single-investigator projects, multi-institutional collaborations, and fundamental research centers. The genome sequences of organisms studied in these projects are provided largely by the DOE Joint Genome Institute, an important user facility and a world leader in generating sequences of microbes, microbial communities, plants, and other organisms.
By leveraging the increasing availability of sequences from whole organism genomes and environmental samples (metagenomes), Genomic Science researchers are using and developing advanced methods to facilitate the translation of genome sequence into predictive understanding of function. These methods cut across DOE missions in energy production, carbon cycle science, climate change, and environmental remediation. For example, technologies used to image and characterize microbes interacting with contaminants in subsurface environments could also provide insights into plant-microbe interactions that increase carbon fixation and biomass yield in plants or carbon accumulation in soils.
Global Molecular Analyses. Transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics—collectively described as “omics” analyses—identify and measure the abundance and fluxes of key molecular species indicative of organism or community activity under defined environmental conditions at specific points in time. Global analyses of RNA transcripts, proteins, and metabolites inform scientists about organisms’ physiological status, provide insights into gene function, and indicate which genes are activated and translated into functional proteins as organisms and communities develop or respond to environmental cues. Metamethods that analyze DNA, RNA, and proteins extracted from complex microbial communities in terrestrial and marine environments are enabling discovery of new biological processes and providing novel insights into natural microbial diversity and interdependencies among microbial community members.
Imaging and Structural Characterization. Genomic Science investigators are developing and using new methods for characterizing the chemical reaction surfaces, organization, and structural components in molecular complexes and tracking molecules to view cellular processes as they are occurring. Depending on the spatial scale, a variety of imaging technologies can be used to visualize the complex molecular choreography within biological systems. Some of these structural and imaging tools (e.g., synchrotrons, neutron sources, and electron microscopes) are available or are being developed at DOE Office of Science user facilities that provide photon, neutron, electron, magnetic, and mechanical instrumentation with state-of-the-art spatial, temporal, and chemical sensitivity.
Synthetic Biology. Synthetic biology is the design and construction of biological systems that do not exist in the natural world. This research approach may involve building entirely new microorganisms from a set of standard parts— genes, proteins, and metabolic pathways—or radically redesigning existing biological systems to enable capabilities that the systems would not possess naturally.
Genomic Science-Related BER Research Highlights