Draft mouse genome makes public debut.
9 May 2002
This story is from the News and Features section of the journal Nature
A draft assembly of the mouse genome has been made public by the Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium.
The achievement is unlikely to attract the same public attention as last year's release of the human genome - but researchers say it could be just as important to science and medicine.
"The mouse genome turns a spotlight on all sorts of features that were not apparent from the human genome," says Eric Lander, director of the Center for Genome Research at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of three sequencing centres involved in the project. "It just didn't make sense to wait until the paper came out to make sure people knew about it."
The sequence - posted on 6 May on GenBank, the main public archive of genomic information, and two other websites - covers an estimated 96% of the genome, with each base sequenced an average of seven times.
Direct comparisons between the mouse and human genomes will yield valuable information, Lander says, including the identification of regulatory regions and even new genes. But the genome will also serve as a powerful tool for biomedical researchers, who are planning to breed mice with certain genotypes and watch how they develop.
"Many laboratories have been labouring to identify mouse variants that associate with particular phenotypes," explains Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. "This can now be done with a few clicks of a mouse and we can move on to understanding the biology and trying to apply this to good purpose."
Collins and Lander played down the role of the public consortium's rivalry with Celera, the biotechnology company in Rockville, Maryland, in the timing of their announcement. Last April, Celera said it had assembled a draft sequence of the mouse genome that included sixfold coverage of each base, but made it available only to subscribers to its own database.
Celera is now said to be planning publication of its mouse genome in
some shape or form - perhaps releasing a detailed analysis of a single
chromosome. "We do have a plan to do some publishing, but we can't talk
about it in any detail at this time," says Celera spokesman Robert Bennett.
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002