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X-chromosome tells the tale

HOUSTON (March 17, 2005) If the human genome is indeed the "book of life," then the X-chromosome is all plot.

In a report in today's issue of the journal Nature, a host of genome researchers describe the nature of this mysterious "chapter" in the DNA story.

"Large numbers of medically related genes happen to fall on the X," said Dr. Steven Scherer, associate professor in the Baylor College of Medicine department of molecular and human genetics and director of mapping in the BCM Human Genome Sequencing Center. "For a chromosome that is so bereft of genes compared to other chromosomes, this one is well characterized with regard to disease genes."

The fact that men have just one copy of the X chromosome makes the mutated genes on that one piece of DNA much easier to find, said Scherer.

Scherer and his colleagues in the BCM Sequencing Center were the number two contributors to the sequencing effort directed at the X chromosome. It was led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain.

The story of each chromosome will be published eventually, with all the important features explained, said Scherer.

"I expect this chromosome is the all-star of the series. It will make interesting reading for the general scientific population and the lay public," he said. "If you were going to read a chromosome paper, this probably ought to be the one you read."

The role of the X and Y chromosomes have evolved. Before the split between birds and mammals, the X and Y chromosomes were just like any other pair of chromosomes each was fairly similar and carried similar information.

The authors, in tracing the evolution of the X chromosome, showed that slowly, but surely, the Y chromosome "dropped off the face of the earth," said Scherer. "Although it contains a few important genes, it's almost like the appendix of the human genome."

Every woman has two X chromosomes. Each man has an X chromosome and a Y chromos
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Contact: Ross Tomlin
htomlin@bcm.tmc.edu
713-798-4712
Baylor College of Medicine
16-Mar-2005


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