Fugu fish sequencing project potential boon to gene hunters

BERKELEY, CA - Scientists searching the human genome data for genes and the DNA sequences that control their activity will soon have a valuable new resource courtesy of the Japanese delicacy known as Fugu (Fugu rubripes), the puffer fish. An international consortium, led by researchers at the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has announced a collaborative agreement to sequence the Fugu genome. Although the Fugu genome contains essentially the same genes and regulatory sequences as the human genome, it carries those genes and regulatory sequences in approximately 400 million bases as compared to the 3 billion bases that make up human DNA. With far less so-called "junk DNA" to sort through, finding genes and controlling sequences in the Fugu genome should be a much easier task. The information can then be used to help identify these same elements in the human genome.

Said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, "This genetic information from a distantly related vertebrate will help us read the book of human life with new understanding and knowledge. Given the major contributions already made to the human genome project by the Energy Department's Joint Genome Institute and their tremendous capability to decode DNA, this new effort is a logical and exciting next step in the project."

DOE began the Human Genome Project in 1986 out of its Congressional mandate to study the genetic and health effects of radiation and chemical by-products of energy production.

Said Trevor Hawkins, deputy director of the JGI, "This project will represent our single largest genome sequencing project to date and be the centerpiece of our new Genome Portal."

Based in Walnut Creek, California, the JGI is one of the largest publicly funded genome sequencing centers in the world. The institute is itself a consortium initially formed by three DOE national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, and Los Alamos. Joining

Contact: Lynn Yarris
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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