March 24, 2000 -- The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, has been the workhorse of biology and genetics laboratories for the past 90 years. Now the entire Drosophila genome has been sequenced by a collaborative effort involving researchers from the Drosophila Genome Project Group, led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) vice president Gerald Rubin at the University of California, Berkeley, and researchers led by J. Craig Venter at the Celera Genomics.
The Drosophila genome sequence was published in the March 24, 2000, issue of Science. The researchers report that they have sequenced 97 to 98 percent of the genome and perhaps 99 percent of the estimated 13,600 genes. The sequence data will be accessible to scientists worldwide through Genbank, the National Institutes of Health genetic sequence database.
In an accompanying editorial in Science, Thomas Kornberg at the University of California, San Francisco, and HHMI investigator Mark Krasnow at Stanford University, report that the Drosophila sequence will be a "critical resource" for research in genetics, biology and medicine.
Over the years, Drosophila has been one of the most influential model systems for geneticists. "The conservation of biological processes from flies to mammals extends the influence of Drosophila to human health," write Kornberg and Krasnow. "When a Drosophila homology of an important but poorly understood mammalian gene is isolated, the arsenal of genetic techniques in the Drosophila system can be applied to its characterization."