New DNA editing tool could rapidly accelerate the design of custom microbes

A DNA editing tool adapted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists makes engineering microbes for everything from bioenergy production to plastics recycling easier and faster.

The Serine recombinase-Assisted Genome Engineering, or SAGE system, lets scientists quickly insert and test new DNA designs in a variety of microorganisms. Engineered microbes hold promise for making biofuels, recycling mixed plastics, aiding soil carbon storage and treating health disorders.

"SAGE works in virtually all microorganisms, revolutionizing what we're able to do with microbes," said ORNL's Adam Guss. Microbes were modified in a few days with SAGE, compared with a tailoring process that can take weeks using existing methods.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

SAGE can advance fundamental biology as well as bioengineering, Guss said. "As a national lab, enabling science everywhere is part of our mission. SAGE is a tool that can speed the work of industry and academic researchers in their own organisms of interest."

Journal reference:

Elmore, J. R., et al. (2023). High-throughput genetic engineering of nonmodel and undomesticated bacteria via iterative site-specific genome integration. Science Advances.


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