The humble mouse is often used as a model to unravel the mysteries of mammalian, particularly human, biology. However, members of the International Mouse Genome Consortium reported this week that they have succeeded in making a physical map of this rodent’s genome using, ironically, the sequence of the human genome as a template.
David Bentley, of The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and colleagues from around the globe, describe the map in today’s advanced online publication of Nature. It can also be accessed online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/guide/mouse or at http://www.ensembl.org/Mus_musculus/cytoview.
The mapping effort was facilitated by the high degree of chromosomal conservation between human and mouse genomes. A 1.6 million base pair section of human chromosome 6, for example, has extensive homology to a section of mouse chromosome 4. The authors found that in many cases the precise chromosomal order of genes is highly conserved between mice and humans, while in many other cases, al though the exact order has been lost, the gene is still found in the right neighborhood.
The new map is essential for researchers working to sequence all 2.8 billion base pairs of the mouse genome, providing a scaffold upon which randomly sequenced sections of the puzzle can be pieced together. It will also allow researchers to focus on regions of special interest in the genome, and presumably help the development of mouse models of human diseases.—Tom Fagan
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