This award provides renewed support for the operation of the Escherichia coli Genetic Stock Center (CGSC) at Yale University. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is an important model organism and is perhaps the best understood cellular organism from a genetics and biochemistry standpoint. This high degree of understanding has made E. coli not just an important subject of research, but also the laboratory workhorse for molecular genetics research on a broad variety of organisms as well as an invaluable tool for biotechnology. The CGSC maintains an active collection of over 8,500 genetically defined derivatives of the E. coli strain K-12. This collection is updated frequently as new useful strains become available such as the recently acquired Keio collection, a systematic collection of over 3,800 single gene knockouts. The CGSC typically distributes approximately 5,000 strains per year to scientists and educators worldwide. In addition, the CGSC provides information about available strains, as well as genetic maps and information on genes and gene products in a fully searchable database at the collection website (http://cgsc.biology.yale.edu). The CGSC also participates in the EcoliHub project and other web based resources such as EcoGene, and EcoCyc that link directly to the CGSC database. As part of its role in the research community, the CGSC coordinates the assignment of gene symbols and allele numbers and works to encourage adherence to accepted genetic nomenclature. Support provided through this award subsidizes approximately 76% of the ongoing cost of maintaining the strain collection and the corresponding databases. User's fees and institutional support provide for the balance of the operating expenses.
The funding from this grant supported the operation of the E. coli Genetic Stock Center at Yale University. Founded in 1973 with support from the NSF, the primary mission of the Stock Center is to facilitate scientific discovery by providing accurately documented strains of E. coli to the research and teaching community, in a timely fashion and at modest cost. Funds from this grant supported ~70% of the operating expenses of the Stock Center, with the rest of the funds coming from user fees. This grant also supported the purchase of laboratory and computer equipment necessary for our operation and growth. The CGSC (we were originally called the "coli genetic stock center", and the abbreviation is so entrenched in the literature that we still use it) distributes genetically documented cultures of non-pathogenic laboratory strains E. coli. Most of our strains are derived from the famous K-12 strain used at Stanford in the 1940s in the discovery of genetic recombination. The demand for E. coli strains remains strong, and over the past 5 years the Stock Center has more than doubled the number of strains we distribute every year. We now distribute over 7,000 strains per year to an active user base of ~3,600 different laboratories worldwide. This is more strains per year than at any time in our almost 40 year history. We have also nearly doubled the size of our active culture collection to over 8,500 strains, with another ~15,000 strains in our archival collection. Areas of research that benefit from the CGSC Collection: Initially the CGSC served primarily the very active microbial genetics and molecular biology community in their work with E. coli as a model organism for basic research on gene function, gene enzyme relationships, elucidation of metabolic pathways and mechanisms of recombination, replication and other aspects of cellular physiology. As the popularity of E. coli as a model organism has increased, the diversity of fields served by the CGSC has also expanded. We now regularly receive requests for strains and information from investigators studying mammalian cells, nitrogen fixation, genomics and molecular biology of archaebacteria, eubacteria, protists, fungi, plant and animal species, drug discovery and other pharmaceutical research, a broad range of biotechnology applications, topics related to basic and applied agriculture, food science and environmental research, chemical synthesis, biofuels, systems biology, structural biology and microbial evolution. In fact E. coli has become such a workhorse that we are getting requests from researchers well outside the above-mentioned traditional areas of research. For instance over the course of this grant we have sent strains to labs studying applied physics, materials science, computer science, computational biology, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, signal processing, psychology, neuroscience, geoscience and nanotechnology In addition to the distribution of living strains of E. coli, an important part of the Stock Centers mission has been to act as a public source of information about the genetics of E. coli. Historically this was done by publishing periodic versions of the genetic map of the E. coli genome. Since that time the genome of E. coli K-12 has been fully sequenced and the information is now available in a number of locations including on our website in a searchable form. The Stock Center still acts as the acknowledged authority for assigning allele numbers for newly discovered or engineered mutations in E. coli. We also offer free advice and consulting on strain selection, use and troubleshooting to both researchers and educators who want to use E. coli at both the high school and colligate level.