Originally published in Nature Biotechnology, October 1999, Volume 17, Number 10 p 940.
GFP: Kacs and dogs

John Hodgson

In some organisms at least, recombinant DNA is still an
art. That is certainly the case for Eduardo Kac, a
transgenic artist based in Chicago who described two
pieces of his transgenic art at the Life Sciences
symposium organized at the recent Ars Electronica
festival in Linz, Austria.

His installation, Genesis, says Kac, explores the
relationship between biology, belief systems, IT,
dialogical interactions, ethics, and the Internet. Genesis
uses Escherichia coli to transmute the words of the god
of the Christians and the Jews. Kac first created the
"genesis gene" by translating the biblical quotation "Let
man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the
fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves
upon the earth" first into Morse code and thence into
DNA code. Through transformation he produced blue E.
coli containing both the "genesis gene" and a gene for
enhanced cyan fluorescent protein. Internet observers
(www.ekac.org) can interact with the installation by
turning on and off a mutagenic UV radiation source that
illuminates a mixed culture of the "genesis strain" with
yellow E. coli (gene for enhanced yellow fluorescent
protein and no "genesis gene").

Kac's other transgenic installation is GFP-K9, a dog
transformed to express the gene for green fluorescent
protein in its coat. Kac believes that the creation of
transgenic companion animals will challenge people to
reassess their views of transgenics in general. At
present, he says, transgenics are stigmatized by their
being -- in the main -- laboratory variants. GFP-K9, Kac
points out, is a work in progress pending advances such
as the transformation of canine cells through
microinjection and the completion of the dog genome
project (in order to locate coat coloration genes).

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