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At the JGI--or Joint Genome Institute--I had the opportunity to experience one of the largest dedicated DNA sequencing operations in the world Basically I got to see firsthand the machinery and technology involved in the process called whole-genome shotgun sequencing whereby the order of bases in an organisms genome is determined One of the tour guides before the tour gave us an animated illustration of this process In this genome-determining-process DNA from the organism to be sequenced is broken up into pieces about 2000 to 4000 bases long through a process called shearing Then these fragments of DNA are inserted into the DNA of a bacterium When grown on an agar plate only the transformed bacteria with the plasmid containing the fragmented DNA with genes for ampicillin resistance and the lacZ gene interrupted by the inserted DNA can grow on the plate and be white These white colonies are the ones used in the upcoming steps Basically the plasmid DNA is taken out of the bacterium the fragments are replicated and the terminal base of each fragment is tagged with a fluorescent dye The tagged fragments are loaded into a high-speed capillary electrophoresis machine and lasers can read the dyes of the bases as they move through the machine A computer--at the end--solves the puzzle and determines the organisms genome sequence While at the JGI on our tour we saw an electroporation machine which induces the bacteria to open their pores causing the plasmids to enter into the bacteria Also we saw a robotic bacteria picker which picks specific white bacteria colonies out of the plate Furthermore we saw a large number of thermal cyclers and sequencing machines Overall the tour was worthwhile because we learned how specialized institutions such as the JGI sequence an organisms DNA and had the opportunity to overlap segmented pieces of DNA in a hands-on activity with the purpose of determining the genome
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