A fly (genome) like any other fly


Biologists may well know more about the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, including its entire genome sequence, than about anything else with legs. Now a new effort will re-sequence the DNA of 50 different strains of Drosophila, addressing questions and developing tools that could eventually be used to look at the genetic differences between individual humans.

"To go from the genome to medicine, why some people get sick and some don't, you have to be able to look at genomic variation," said Charles Langley, professor of genetics at UC Davis and principal investigator on the project.

The original genome sequence for Drosophila was published in 2000, reflecting a single genetic isolate. The new project will develop the necessary technology to sequence another 50 lines, capturing most of the natural variation in the species, Langley said.

Eventually, the ideas and tools from this Drosophila genomics project could be used to extend the study of human genomic variation -- currently based on a handful of individuals -- to everyone, Langley said.

Drosophila is an ideal test platform for studying how individual differences in the genome translate into differences in appearance, physiology and behavior, Langley said. It has been intensely studied by a large community of scientists and has a relatively small genome.

The project is supported by a grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, and is for $4.9 million over four years. The other investigators on the grant are Janet Warrington, Affymetrix Inc.; Michael Zwick, Emory University; David Cutler, Johns Hopkins University; and Pieter deJong, Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

The University of California and Affymetrix have agreed that software developed as part of the grant will be open source, Langley said. The data generated by the project will be publicly released on the Web on the day it is produced.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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