Villain Fungus Transformed Into Hero
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Ben Hardin, (309) 681-6597, email@example.com
August 3, 1999
A fungus that's notorious for producing toxins in stored grains may someday
be transformed to do good works such as making vitamins, rubber and drugs,
Agricultural Research Service scientists reported at a meeting today.
ARS scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research,
Peoria, Ill., have applied for a patent on a method to insert multiple genes
into microorganisms to produce a variety of products. For example, the
researchers modified the stored grain-infesting Fusarium sporotrichioides to
produce beta-carotene. Until now, genetic engineering of organisms has
usually involved introducing one or two highly expressed genes.
The scientists presented their findings on the genetic transformation system
today at the annual meeting of the Society for Industrial Microbiology in
In the case of F. sporotrichioides, ARS scientist James D. Jones and
colleagues systematically synthesized and inserted multi-gene arrays, or
cassettes, of genetic material called DNA into the fungus. The NCAUR
scientists' first genetically engineered versions of F. sporotrichioides
produced a carotenoid called lycopene, the substance that gives red tomatoes
their color. Carotenoids, used as food colorants, food supplements and
livestock and fish feed additives, also include zeaxanthin and astaxanthin.
The scientists envision additional products that someday may be produced by
the microbe. These include vitamin E, industrial chemicals called terpenes,
biosynthetic rubber and taxol, a drug used in treatment of some
By using the invention to introduce different gene arrays into F.
sporotrichioides, several strains, each capable of producing a specific
compound, could be created, according to Timothy D. Leathers, ARS project
leader on new uses for ethanol coproducts. Working with just one microbial
species would streamline development of technology for making a number of
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research
Scientific contacts: Timothy D. Leathers and James D. Jones, ARS National
Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill.; phone (309)
681-6377 (Leathers) and (309) 681-6376 (Jones); fax number (309) 681-6689;
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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