Molecular engineering took an important step forward when former guest group leader Francis Stewart (BIOTEC/TU Dresden) pioneered a DNA engineering technology know as recombineering, which provided a way to address the function of any protein of interest (Sarov et al, Nature Methods 2006). This technique works by fusing a protein to generic fluorescent and affinity tags for in vivo localisation and/or purification. Together with his student Mihail Sarov, Stewart was able to dramatically increase the throughput of this technology, making genome-wide protein tagging in complex eukaryotes a feasible goal.
Following a postdoc in the Hyman lab, Sarov was recruited to the MPI-CBG as a head of the TransgeneOmics facility, dedicated to further extending this approach to genome scale in several of the main model systems (C. elegans, Drosophila, human cell culture, and mouse cell culture). By further improving the efficiency of transgene engineering and validation and leveraging the economy of scale, the TransgeneOmics facility is now able to rapidly and cost-effectively engineer entire genomes. This lead to the completion of tagging the first genome: C. elegans (Sarov et al, Cell 2012).
“In the past, delving into gene function using recombineering was a tedious and expensive process. Now we can just reach for the right reagent and go straight to the science.” – Tony Hyman
Sarov added, “They not only save years of valuable research time, but the ability to localise any protein of interest at any point of development can make this approach a routine function discovery tool.” To ensure the long-term availability of these tools, the TransgeneOmics facility has co-developed, with an industry partner, a cryostorage solution. Cryostorage can safely maintain all resources at -80ºC, with fully-automated, on-demand robotic access to each individual sample.
Research group leaders Pavel Tomancak and Elisabeth Knust are working along with the facility to develop a similar resource for Drosophila (Ejsmont et al, Nature Methods, 2009). Other collaborations include mapping for mouse and human cell lines. Frank Buchholz (TU Dresden) has utilised the power of this approach for function discovery in mammalian cells in the context of various disease-related processes.
The TransgeneOmics approach is increasingly popular worldwide, and our commitment to making all resources available to external researchers is enthusiastically received by the community. Cell lines resulting from TransgeneOmics approaches in the Hyman lab alone have been sent to over 150 labs in 26 different countries.
“Dresden could become famous for being the place where you can get these reagents. We are emerging as the centre for this work.” – Pavel Tomancak