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Honey bee genome being sequenced

COLLEGE STATION - The department of entomology at Texas A&M University is abuzz with the news the honey bee genome is being sequenced by the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center, especially since Texas A&M helped that project take flight.

"This is a huge deal," said Dr. Spencer Johnston, professor of entomology with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. The honey bee was one of five species recently selected by the National Institutes of Health to have its genome sequenced. The NIH funds much of that type of work in the United States.

Texas A&M and the state's beekeeping industry contributed the money to buy the large bacterial artificial chromosomal libraries needed for the project, and Baylor began the data collection recently, Johnston said.

"When you take an animal and clone him out, you have a choice on how big a piece you clone," he said. "We just went crazy and made the biggest possible pieces, the biggest number we could afford. We have a tremendous bank of all the chunks of DNA of the honey bee. Twenty-five times over we have the honey bee genome, and all of these assembled chunks are called libraries."

Each living cell contains long strands of DNA, or the genetic code that contains all the information to create and control each cell in an organism, according to the UniSci international science news Web site.

DNA resembles a long, spiraling ladder, and the rungs of the ladder are made up of chemical units called bases. The clusters of bases make up genes, which determine inherited physical traits and much of behavior. Sequencing all of this genetic information, or the genome, requires identifying and determining the order of billions of bases that make up DNA and individual genes, the Web site reported.

"The honey bee is the first agricultural species to be sequenced. For that reason, it's important," said Dan Weaver, co-owner of B Weaver Apiaries in Navasota.


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Contact: Dr. Spencer Johnston
spencerj@tamu.edu
979-845-8295
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
3-Jan-2003


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