NEW YORK, May 20 - The dog genome project researchers are readying to unleash their sequencers in June, and have chosen the boxer as the breed to be sequenced, the NHGRI announced today in reporting progress on model organism sequencing efforts.
The group, at the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research, chose the boxer as best of breed after analyzing 120 dogs in 60 breeds and finding that the boxer has the least amount of inter-individual variation in its genome, and would therefore provide an optimum reference sequence.
The dog genome is expected to be useful in studies of genetic disease that it shares with its biped owners, including blindness, deafness, cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders; for human as well as veterinary medicine.
"Once we are able to compare the dog genome with the human genome, the dog will likely prove to be man's best friend in more ways than we ever imagined," said NHGRI director Francis Collins, in a statement.
The dog genome team is planning to complete a draft of the 2.8 billion base-pair dog genome in the next 12 months, and then will sample sequence from between 10 and 20 other dog breeds, including beagle, for studies of genetic variation, according to NHGRI.
While this team revs up to study man's best friend, another group, led by Rick Wilson at Washington University, is slated to finish a working draft of our closest cousin, Pan troglodytes, commonly known as the chimpanzee. The group is next planning to begin assembly of the chimpanzee genome using the human genome as a map, and to then compare human and chimp.
Following the chimp sequence effort, a group at Baylor College of Medicine plans to begin sequencing the rhesus macaque, Macaca mulatto, this summer.
Other organisms currently creating a sequencing buzz include the honeybee, for which a team at Baylor plans to have a draft genome by the end of the pollen season (June); as well as the less-famous fruit fly species Drosophila pseudoobscura, which will in June become the second Drosophila species to have its genome sequenced -enabling researchers to do comparisons of genomes from two closely related organisms. The Baylor group is additionally sequencing the sea urchin, which is a model organism for studies of gene expression and development.
Additionally, sequencers at the Whitehead participating in the "Fungal Genome Initiative," have finished the working drafts of three fungi, Aspergillus nidulans, Fusarium graminearum, and Cryptococcus neoformans. They are at work on the Ustilago maydis, Coprinus cinereus, Rhizopus oryzae, Coccidioides immitis. The
Pneumocystis carinii-mouse, and Pneumocystis carinii-human sequence are on deck to be started.
Amid all this movement in model organism sequencing, the cow has not yet come out of the barn. The Baylor group received a go-ahead on a $50 million project to sequence the bovine genome as long as it received matching funding from other sources. While Texas Gov. Rick Perry has pledged $10 million in state financing to the project - a pledge that has become a bit of a political bull ride amid the state's recent budget wrangling - the remainder of the funds have not yet been raised.
To prioritize sequencing operations, the NHGRI panel reviews white paper submissions from researchers that plead the case for various genomes. Organisms selected as high-priority don't automatically get funding for sequencing, but are slated for decoding as soon as lab time and funds become available. To read the white papers for the model organisms in the process of being considered by NHGRI, go to www.genome.gov/10002154.