Bread mold yields a genome first for filamentous fungi

ARLINGTON, Va.--With more than 10,000 genes amid DNA strands of nearly 40 million base pairs, the first genome of a filamentous fungus has been sequenced through the cooperative efforts of a community of more than 70 scientists, culminating a two-year, $5 million effort supported by the National Science Foundation. The work is reported in this week's issue of Nature, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of that journal's publication of the structure of DNA.

At the center of this latest genetics achievement is a filamentous fungus, a bread mold, a life form easily overlooked in the shadow of the Human Genome Project. To biologists, however, it is Neurospora crassa, an organism of historic and enduring value as a model organism.

More than a decade before the structure of DNA was determined, two biologists focusing on Neurospora as a model genetic organism first established that genes provide the information for the creation of proteins. For their "one gene, one enzyme" hypothesis linking genes to biochemical function, the two scientists-- George Wells Beadle and Edward Lawri Tatum--received the Nobel Prize in 1941.

"The legacy of over 70 years of research, coupled with the availability of molecular and genetic tools, offers enormous potential for continued discovery," write the authors of the current Nature article. They call their genome sequence a "high quality draft," covering pretty much all but the 2 to 3 percent in "unusual genomic regionsthat cannot be assembled readily with available techniques."

An organism's genome consists of the entire genetic code held in its DNA. With more than 5000 papers on Neurospora published in the past 30 years, having the genome now allows many previous biological studies to be seen in a new light.

Though initially billed as "not a research project, but a high throughput production effort," the sequencing effort nevertheless yielded new insights into light sensitivity, fu

Contact: Sean Kearns
National Science Foundation

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