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Trends Microbiol. 2010 Jan;18(1):20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2009.10.001. Epub 2009 Nov 5.

Functional viral metagenomics and the next generation of molecular tools.

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Lucigen Corporation, 2120 W. Greenview Drive, Suite 9, Middleton, WI 53562, USA. <>


The enzymes of bacteriophages and other viruses have been essential research tools since the first days of molecular biology. However, the current repertoire of viral enzymes only hints at their overall potential. The most commonly used enzymes are derived from a surprisingly small number of cultivated viruses, which is remarkable considering the extreme abundance and diversity of viruses revealed over the past decade by metagenomic analysis. To access the treasure trove of enzymes hidden in the global virosphere and develop them for research, therapeutic and diagnostic uses, improvements are needed in our ability to rapidly and efficiently discover, express and characterize viral genes to produce useful proteins. In this paper, we discuss improvements to sampling and cloning methods, functional and genomics-based screens, and expression systems, which should accelerate discovery of new enzymes and other viral proteins for use in research and medicine.

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