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A New Encyclopedia Of Mouse Genes

February 1, 1999 -- The laboratory mouse, small and easy to breed, has long been biologists' favorite model organism for studying mammalian development. Now, a multi-laboratory project with collaboration from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute has produced a free, publicly accessible catalog of mouse gene fragments that will help ensure that the mouse remains an important model in the genomic era.

The catalog, a collection of more than 360,000 gene fragments, is helping scientists get a handle on particular genes that they want to study. The database, which is available on the Internet at http://genome.wustl.edu/est/mouse_esthmpg.html, should also be a valuable tool for interpreting and comparing the genome sequences of mouse and human as vast stretches of chromosome sequence are cranked out in the months and years ahead.

Marco Marra of the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center in St. Louis led a team of 42 scientists who surveyed the genes of the mouse, hoping to snare many genes that are important during development. In the February 1999 issue of the journal Nature Genetics, the researchers describe how they generated their large database of expressed sequence tags (ESTs).

ESTs provide quick access to genes. They are fragments of sequences from messenger RNA molecules, the molecules that act as intermediaries between genes and proteins.

Since the array of messenger RNA molecules in a cell varies according to the type of cell and its developmental stage, the biologists generated ESTs from a broad range of cell types to get the largest possible sample of genes. The ESTs arose from various adult mouse organs as well as from mice in the earliest stages of development.

"The mouse provides a very powerful mammalian model system," Marra points out. "If we want to understand the function of a human g
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
1-Feb-1999


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