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Tackling a 'hairy beast'

Two new federal grants will allow scientists to sequence and analyze the genome of the single-celled model organism Tetrahymena thermophila in a collaborative effort that will benefit a wide range of research, from experimental cell and molecular biology to comparative and functional genomics.

The Tetrahymena sequencing project is being led by scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., in coordination with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Stanford University. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Science Foundation have just awarded grants totaling $6.43 million to support this project.

"Biomedical research using Tetrahymena as a model organism has yielded major advances in a surprisingly broad range of areas," said Judith Greenberg, Ph.D., acting director of NIGMS. "We expect the sequencing of the Tetrahymena genome to be of great benefit to the scientific community and to have a significant impact on our understanding of how cells work."

NIGMS, which is part of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary source of funding at the NIH for research involving Tetrahymena.

Tetrahymena is a member of a group of single-celled organisms called ciliates which are characterized by hairlike projections, or cilia, that allow them to swim. Tetrahymena's many cilia have earned it an unoffical nickname of "hairy beast." Like humans, ciliates are eukaryotic organisms (their DNA is packaged into a structure called a nucleus).

"Tetrahymena is an excellent model system for studying the biology of all eukaryotes, including humans," said Jonathan Eisen, Ph.D., principal investigator at TIGR. "And the use of Tetrahymena as a model will be greatly facilitated by deciphering its complete genome sequence."

This project will promote unrestricted and user-friendly access to the Tetrahymena thermophila genome sequen
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Contact: Linda Joy
linda.joy@nih.gov
301-402-2545
NIH/National Institute of General Medical Sciences
9-Apr-2003


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