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Momentous Moment for Filamentous Fungi: Bread Mold Joins List of Sequenced Model Organisms

NEW YORK, April 28 - An international team of scientists has published the sequence of the genome of the filamentous fungi Neurospora crassa, commonly known as bread mold.


A paper on the draft genome sequence, which contains approximately 40 million base pairs and more than 10,000 genes - only about 25 percent fewer than the fruitfly - appeared in the April 24 issue of the journal Nature. The draft sequence includes more than 95 percent of the genome and represents 20-fold coverage. The final genome sequence is expected by the end of this year.


A team of researchers from the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research spearheaded the two-year effort, which involved more than 70 scientists from over 30 universities and research groups representing more than 11 countries.


The sequence, freely available from the Whitehead Institute, was obtained using the whole-genome shotgun approach and was assembled with the Arachne program developed at the Whitehead. The international team used the Whitehead's Calhoun annotation pipeline system to annotate the Neurospora genome, and the Fgenesh, Fgenesh+, and Genewise gene finding programs to predict the genes.


Like yeast, fruitfly, and other model organisms, Neurospora has played an important role in the history of genetics. George Wells Beadle and Edward Lawri Tatum received the Nobel Prize in 1941 for discovering that genes provide the information for the creation of proteins based on their study of Neurospora.


In addition, the repeat-induced point mutation (RIP), a genetic mechanism unique to fungi that appears to prevent the formation of new genes through gene duplication, was first discovered in Neurospora in the 1980s. The authors of the Nature paper write that their analysis of the Neurospora genome seems to uphold this theory, and suggests "that RIP has had a profound impact on genome evolution, greatly slowing the creation of new genes through genomic duplication and resulting in a genome with an unusually low proportion of closely related genes."


Neurospora is the first filamentous fungus to be sequenced, and kicks off a new Fungal Genome Initiative at the Whitehead that will involve sequencing a broad range of fungal species as well as comparative genomics initiatives to study the biology of fungi. The Genome Center said it expects to release the sequences of nine fungal genomes this year.

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