Pufferfish DNA yields clues to human biology

WALNUT CREEK, CA An international research consortium led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) reported today on the draft sequencing, assembly, and analysis of the genome of the Japanese pufferfish Fugu rubripes. The report was released on Science Magazine's "Science Express" Website (http://www.sciencemag.org/sciencexpress/recent.shtml).

Pufferfish have the smallest known genomes among vertebrates, the group of animals with backbones that includes humans. The Fugu sequence contains roughly the same number of genes as the much larger human genome, but in a compact form streamlined by the relative scarcity of the "junk" DNA that fills much of the human sequence.

Through comparison of the human and pufferfish genomes, the researchers were able to predict the existence of nearly 1,000 previously unidentified human genes. These additional hypothetical human genes are of largely unknown function, but contribute to the complete catalog of human genes. Determining the existence and location of genes helps enable scientists to begin characterizing how they are regulated and function in the human body.

"Comparative genomics programs like the Fugu project are key to understanding the biology of the human genome," said JGI Interim Director Eddy Rubin. "As historic and important as the Human Genome Project is, it's only the first step in determining how genes work and why they sometimes don't work the way they should."

The draft sequencing and assembly of the Fugu genome, announced last October, marked the first publicly released animal genome after the human sequence, and the first vertebrate genome publicly sequenced and assembled using the whole genome shotgun method. The Fugu genome sequence, along with other information about the project, is available on the World Wide Web at www.jgi.doe.gov/fugu and www.fugubase.org.

The JGI, one of the largest public genome sequencing centers in the world, is ope

Contact: Charles Osolin
DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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