Fruit fly's genome sequence finished in record time: Physical maps are the key to accuracy

BERKELEY, CA -- In 90 years of study, the diminutive fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has yielded many of the most fundamental discoveries in genetics -- beginning with proof, in 1916, that the genes are located on the chromosomes. Only during the last year has the fly's whole genome been sequenced, however, and its 13,601 individual genes enumerated.

The genome of D. melanogaster, the largest yet sequenced in full, is described in the 24 March 2000 issue of Science magazine, in a series of articles jointly authored by hundreds of scientists, technicians, and students from 20 public and private institutions in five countries.

The collaboration was led by Gerald Rubin of the University of California at Berkeley and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), who heads the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project, and by J. Craig Venter of Celera Genomics in Rockville, Maryland. The Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project (BDGP) is supported by the Department of Energy, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and HHMI, with the largest of its facilities operated by the Life Sciences Division of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

In 1998, when collaboration with Celera began, extensive but incomplete maps of the location of specific DNA sequences on the fly chromosomes had been constructed, and about 20 percent of the fly genome had already been sequenced in detail -- mostly by the BDGP group at Berkeley Lab where, with Rubin, Susan Celniker is co-director of the sequencing effort.

The purpose of the collaboration was to test whether a strategy known as whole-genome shotgun sequencing could be used on organisms having many thousands of genes encoded in millions of DNA base pairs; the strategy had proven effective for small bacterial genomes.

"No one knew whether whole-genome shotgun sequencing would work for the fly genome," says Roger Hoskins, leader of the BDGP physical mapping project, "but we knew that if it did, i

Contact: Paul Preuss
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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