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Genome tools pass big test in fruit flies

s to characterize more than 250 Drosophila genes.

In a research article published in the September, 1999 issue of the journal Genetics, Rubin, Spradling and their colleagues present the results of generating and characterizing 1,052 mutant fly strains that contain P element disruptions in more than 25 percent of Drosophila’s 3,600 vital genes. The researchers examined each fly strain for obvious changes from wild-type flies, including phenotypes such as lethality, near-lethality and other readily apparent physical abnormalities.

"Our goal was not to identify every gene we could, but to show that it was feasible to generate large numbers of P element mutations randomly throughout the Drosophila genome and to use them to find new genes," said Rubin. "We did that." More sophisticated examinations—for behavioral deficits or biochemical changes—should turn up even more genes since only about a third of genes show phenotypes we would have recognized in the current study, he added. Since the Drosophila genome is thought to contain more than 12,000 genes, Rubin and Spradling have concluded that the P element approach, which has been successful in characterizing a large number of fly genes, merits an even larger trial.

Of course, the P element disruption technique is not the only tool that researchers are developing to analyze genomes. In a second research article that will appear in the same issue of Genetics, Rubin, Spradling and more than two dozen colleagues at several institutions in the United States and England, used a wide variety of tools to probe a 2.9 million base pair region of the Drosophila genome.

"We chose a region of the Drosophila genome that had been characterized in substantial detail already from a genetic perspective, partly though the use of P elements, and for which we now have a sequence. The idea, then, was to apply all the available tools to this weal
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
1-Sep-1999


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