Genome tools pass big test in fruit flies

August 31, 1999—With the effort to sequence the entire human genome speeding toward completion, some researchers are now focusing their energy on developing the next generation of tools that can be used to extract valuable scientific information from the unabridged human genetic sequences.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators, Allan Spradling at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and Gerald Rubin at the University of California, Berkeley, and more than two dozen colleagues have developed and used several types of tools to analyze the genome of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which has provided a treasure trove of information about genes and their function.

"When the Human Genome Project started eight years ago, the organizers had the foresight to sequence a number of other organisms to serve as models and as interpretive guides to the much larger human genome," said Rubin.

"The kinds of analyses we can do on the Drosophila genome, and on the genomes of other model organisms, will enable us to get far more information more quickly from the human genome effort," added Spradling.

In 1982, Spradling and Rubin discovered how to use a transposable element, a piece of DNA that can jump from place to place in the genome, to engineer changes in the fly’s genome. The two researchers turned this piece of DNA—the P element—into a powerful tool for creating large numbers of mutant fruit flies, each containing a mutation in a single gene.

Many laboratories have been using this technique to generate mutant flies, which Rubin and Spradling have collected under the aegis of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project (BDGP), a program backed by HHMI. BDGP makes the fly strains available to researchers around the world, and scientists have used the flie

Contact: Jim Keeley
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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