Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program
Human Genome News Archive Edition
Human Genome News, July 1990; 2(2)
Applications of New Technologies May Reduce Cost and Labor
Progress in several areas of genome mapping and sequencing suggests that technology may reduce the cost and labor needed to achieve genome project objectives. This theme was repeated several times during the recent 1990 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meeting on Genome Mapping and Sequencing. The organizers-Charles Cantor, Maynard Olson, and Richard Roberts-planned an excellent and timely program for the May 2-6 meeting in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.
During last year's meeting, several new technologies were suggested and discussed, but this year scientists report that quite a few of them are actually being applied.
Round worm mapping. The project showing most advancement is the mapping (and soon sequencing) of the round worm Caenorhabditis elegans genome, which may serve as a technological pilot project for the much larger human genome. Groups directed by John Sulston (MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, Cambridge, U.K.) and Robert Waterston (Washington University, Missouri) have nearly completed the physical map of C. elegans. Equally important, they have helped establish the utility of yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) for large-scale mapping.
YACs. YACs, frequently mentioned at the meeting, dominated the session on large DNA cloning methods. Inserted DNA was reported to maintain its integrity in YACs, and the use of overlapping YACs is gaining importance in conjunction with cosmid mapping.
Automation. The topic of automation also recurred during the meeting. A new session on automation highlighted methods for mapping, sequencing, and data handling, and discussions in other sections indicated that automation is now a concern of many investigators.
PCR. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) continues to generate advances in sequencing, as it has in other areas of molecular biology. A big advantage to using PCR is that it may permit both DNA strands to be sequenced simultaneously.
Oligonucleotide primers. Libraries of oligonucleotide primers 9 or 10 nucleotides in length could greatly reduce the cost and effort of high-volume sequencing. Currently, the feasibility of this strategy is being tested.
Separation by magnetic fields. Magnetic beads, in combination with the biotin-streptavidin system, are being used to separate DNA strands after PCR, eliminating the need for template purification before solid-phase sequencing of genomic and plasmid DNA. The use of magnetic fields can be automated more readily than centrifugal force separation, because automating centrifuge loading would require very sophisticated robotics.
Cleavage strategies. Combinations of methylases, restriction enzymes, and DNA binding proteins can be used to cut genomic DNA at very specific sites. This new method has been used to make single and double cleavages in the Escherichia coli genome and a single cleavage in an entire yeast genome.
Reported by Daniel R. Schechter
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
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The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international 13-year effort, 1990 to 2003. Primary goals were to discover the complete set of human genes and make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of DNA bases in the human genome. See Timeline for more HGP history.
Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.