Sequencing project explores euglenoids' biotech potential

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

November 23, 2022 -- The Euglena International Network (EIN) has launched a plan to sequence the genomes of all known euglenoid species over the next decade. As a global consortium of scientists, EIN's goal is to support euglenoid science through academic and industry collaboration.

EIN's position paper, published November 22 in the journal Biology Open, outlines the case for a concerted effort to generate high quality reference genomes for the nearly 1,000 known euglenoid species.

Euglenoids are eukaryotic organisms (containing a cell nucleus) that are neither animals, plants, or fungi. These diverse single-celled organisms reside in a wide range of ecosystems worldwide.

Euglenoid genomes present a sequencing challenge because they exhibit secondary endosymbiosis -- housing mitochondria, chloroplasts, and genetic material from other eukaryotes that they have engulfed.

Some euglenoid species have translational potential for biofuel production, nutraceuticals, bioremediation, cancer treatment, and robotics. However, this potential has been largely untapped due to a lack of high-quality reference genomes. Fewer than 20 species have been explored for their translational applications.

Through generating high-quality reference genomes for known euglenoid species, EIN hopes to understand the basic biology and evolution of euglenoids, maximize euglenoid applications in ecological and environmental management, as well as explore, translate, and commercialize euglenoid products.

EIN's data will be available to the scientific community through the European Nucleotide Archive. Annotated genomes can then be imported into resources such as Ensembl Protists -- a genome-centric portal for protist species -- and presented in a uniform way to research communities.

"Producing reference genomes is the first step to understanding these remarkable organisms so we can realize their biotechnological potential," EIN science committee chair Neil Hall said in a statement.

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