Joint Genome Institute to sequence key African frog genome

WALNUT CREEK, CA In their continuing search for new clues to how human genes function and how vertebrates develop and evolve, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) are gearing up to map the DNA of a diminutive, fast-growing African frog named Xenopus tropicalis.

Frogs have long been a favorite subject for biologists because their growth from eggs to tadpoles to mature organisms sheds light on the processes that guide the development of cells and organs. X. tropicalis was chosen for sequencing because its genetic structure is similar to humans but smaller and easier to decode than that of other frog species.

"Frogs and other amphibians occupy a key evolutionary position between mammals and fish, the organisms whose genomes have been or are currently being sequenced," said Paul Richardson, the JGI project manager. "The publicly available Xenopus genome sequence will be a scientifically valuable resource for the research community."

"Until now, experiments with frogs have shown us how vertebrates develop from an egg to an organism," said Richard Harland, a developmental biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and an early advocate of the project. "But we're looking forward to new possibilities from the genome sequence.

"Using a compare-and-contrast approach with the human sequence, and the experiments that are possible in frogs, we'll definitely make real progress in decoding the human genome," Harland said.

Added Robert Grainger, a leading Xenopus researcher from the University of Virginia: "Studies on frogs have long been instrumental in understanding such fundamental processes as cell division and how cells in the embryo communicate with one another. Because these are the processes that go awry when birth defects occur or cancer strikes, we must seek a better understanding of them. This genome project will provide a major step in that direction."

The JGI, one of

Contact: Charles Osolin
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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