By Matthew Willett

The public/private Mouse Sequencing Consortium, funded in large part by the National Institutes of Health, said its mouse genome, which represents at least 95 percent of the full complement mouse DNA, is available to the public.

The consortium was formed in October to produce a draft sequence of the mouse genome. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 11, 2000.)

Larry Thompson, communications director for the National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the funders of the Mouse Sequencing Consortium, said the three-fold coverage genome still has years of work ahead, though it¿s already offering researchers a powerful tool.

¿The importance of the whole-genome shotgun sequencing of the mouse, and the most important thing for biologists and researchers, is that it¿s a resource that can be used to annotate the human sequence published in February,¿ Thompson told BioWorld Today. ¿Comparing places in the mouse and human sequences can help identify genes not yet identified, and that¿s already happening.¿

Mouse sequence results have been continually released, posted weekly on a public database. The data can be viewed at The Trace Archive, operated by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Traces/trace.cgi and at The Ensembl Trace Server at http://trace.ensembl.org.

Thompson said that availability will give researchers an opportunity to advance quickly.

¿Because it¿s available on a public database, biologists and molecular researchers around the world can go and look in the database and see if their gene of interest is available,¿ he said. ¿There¿s no inhibition. You don¿t have to spend any money to do that. We have no issue with private companies developing similar databases, but by having it freely available it will help accelerate research toward advances in whatever field a scientist is working in.¿

The Mouse Sequencing Consortium (MSC) was funded with a $58 million budget contributed by its members, the Merck Genome Research Institute; SmithKline Beecham plc (now GlaxoSmithKline plc), of London; Affymetrix Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif.; the Bethesda, Md.-based National Institutes of Health, and the Wellcome Trust.

SmithKline Beecham and the Merck Genome Research Institute each contributed $6.5 million, and Affymetrix put in $3.5 million. The Wellcome Trust committed $7.75 million. The NIH, through its divisions, the National Cancer Institute, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and the National Institute of Mental Health, contributed $34 million.

The actual genome sequencing was conducted at three laboratories: the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass.; the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; and the Sanger Centre in Cambridge, UK.

Scientists used a whole shotgun sequencing approach to generate the initial genome coverage.

The sequencing is the second mouse milestone in as many months. The first was Celera Genomics¿ announcement of a completely sequenced, sixfold coverage mouse genome in April. (See BioWorld Today, April 30, 2001.)

Rockville, Md.-based Celera began the process in April 2000, and has since sequenced the 129X1/SvJ, DBA/2J and A/J mouse strains. Now the company is tackling the annotation of the genome to refine the number and function of mouse genes.

Similarly, work is not finished for the Mouse Sequencing Consortium.

¿The sequencing consortium is planning to continue the work to assemble all the shotgun fragments into a complete map of the mouse, using all the databases available to annotate it, and continue the sequencing work until all the mouse genome is complete,¿ Thompson said. ¿That¿ll take several more years of work.¿

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