NET NEWS: Hunting Mouse Genes

Science  22 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5401, pp. 455c
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5401.455c

A new Web database in Japan will help ratchet up the pace of genetic studies in mice, which down the line should yield insights into diseases in people. Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) outside Tokyo last week unveiled the Mouse Encyclopedia Index, a library of complementary DNA (cDNA) sequences. These sequences are DNA copies of the stretches of RNA that a cell's ribosomes use to express a gene, or crank out its protein.

According to Yoshihide Hayashizaki, head of RIKEN's Genome Exploration Research Group, the index is the first mouse data bank that will focus on full-length cDNA sequences, which can help researchers figure out the function of a particular gene. The group's work is based on a new synthesis method that produces full-length cDNA clones instead of segments, and rapid sequencing techniques, all developed at RIKEN. “The group at RIKEN has done a lot of good work,” says David Lipman, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Center for Biotechnology Information. “It's exciting that they're starting to make these [data] public.”

For now, the site is limited: Although RIKEN has generated some 20,000 cDNA clones, it has sequenced only one end region of each clone. That identifying data, posted on the Web site, catalogs the clones and allows comparative searches across other data banks. Full-length sequence data will be posted as soon as it's available, Hayashizaki says, “and we are going to establish a system to distribute the clones.”

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