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Sequencing project results in six-fold reduction of effective size of maize genome

using the standard whole-genome methods for sequence analysis and alignment. At about 2 to 3 billion base pairs, the maize genome is estimated to be 20 times larger than Arabidopsis, an experimental plant that is the first plant genome to be completely sequenced. However, maize probably has only twice as many genes as Arabidopsis. The rest of the maize genome is made up of a large amount of highly repetitive DNA including many mobile DNA elements. Unlike Arabidopsis genes, the maize genes are not spaced evenly throughout the genome but instead are clustered in "islands" floating in a large "sea" of repeat-sequence DNA.

To sequence these "islands", the Maize Consortium used two methods for gene-enrichment, methyl-filtration and high-Cot selection. The methyl-filtration method was developed at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, New York, and has been exclusively licensed to St. Louis-based Orion Genomics. It is based on the finding that highly repetitive DNA is modified (methylated) while genes are largely free of such modification. The well-established high-Cot selection method was applied at Purdue University and exploits the fact that gene sequences are in relatively low abundance compared with the large amount of repeated non-genic sequences. These methods target overlapping, but non-identical fractions of the genome that are highly enriched for genes sequences.


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Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
tony_fitzpatrick@wustl.edu
314-935-5272
Washington University in St. Louis
8-Mar-2004


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