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Berkeley Lab Life Sciences division awarded NIH grants for fruit fly, nematode studies

BERKELEY, CA -- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today (May 14) announced the first grants in a four-year, $57 million effort to identify the functional elements in the genomes of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

Researchers in the Life Sciences Division of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are the principal investigators on two of the new grant projects, while other members of the division are co-principal investigators on additional projects. The projects are part of the ENCODE program (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) administered by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). The fly and nematode projects are dubbed modENCODE, because they are studies of model organisms.

Functional elements include DNA sequences for protein-coding and noncoding genes, regulatory elements in gene transcription, and those DNA sequences, along with proteins that bind DNA, that play a role in chromosome structure and dynamics. By understanding the functional elements in the genomes of flies and nematodes (round worms), NHGRI hopes to shed light on the workings of the human genome.

"I am delighted to see the leading roles that Berkeley Lab scientists are taking in this ambitious and important project," says Joe Gray, director of the Life Sciences Division and Associate Laboratory Director for Life and Environmental Sciences. "Understanding how genomes regulate transcription is essential to understanding numerous aspects of biology, ranging from normal organ development to the development of cancer. The model studies being initiated here in the ENCODE projects will provide important general information about how these genomes, both model and human, function."

Susan Celniker is principal investigator and Roger Hoskins is co-PI of a modENCODE grant project titled "Comprehensive Characterization of the Drosophila Transcriptome." The transcriptome, rou
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Contact: Paul Preuss
paul_preuss@lbl.gov
510-486-6249
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
14-May-2007


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