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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, May 1991; 3(1)

NIH Discusses cDNA Role with Invited Group


The NIH Human Genome Program emphasizes the construction of complete genetic and physical maps of the genomes of human and selected model organisms and development of new technology and information systems to manage mapping and sequencing data. Sequencing entire genomes will begin when the cost of sequencing is substantially below current cost.

The NIH National Center for Human Genome Research (NCHGR) explored the usefulness of cDNA isolation and analysis in helping to achieve the Human Genome Project's 5-year goals. This examination comes in light of the attention being given to cDNAs by human genome programs in the United Kingdom, some European countries, and more recently by DOE. A small group (see participants' list below) that included members of the Program Advisory Committee on the Human Genome met December 2, 1990, in Bethesda, Maryland, to discuss the role cDNAs might play in the NIH Human Genome Program.

The group identified the following advantages of pursuing cDNA studies:

  • cDNAs are a source of sequence tagged site (STS) markers and can be used to identify potential candidate genes.
  • A central goal of the Human Genome Project will be to identify stretches of DNA coding for proteins, and biologists would benefit more if they had this information sooner rather than later.
  • Some model systems, such as Escherichia coli, Caenorhabditis elegans, and Drosophila melanogaster, have physical maps that are complete or nearly so. Studies of these genomes are at a point wherecDNA research could make a significant contribution to understanding the biology of these organisms,thereby increasing their value as models for human studies.

The group cautioned that this is a research area not previously envisioned as part of the 5-year goals. If cDNA studies are supported, the group suggested the following considerations:

  • Long-term Human Genome Project goals should not be compromised for short-term payoffs. Full-scale pursuit of cDNAs may result in dilution of effort for quick biological returns.
  • Problems with current cDNA libraries include structure and quality, correction for super abundance, achievement of full-length cDNAs, detection of alternate transcripts, and localization on the physical map.

Participants suggested that NCHGR pursue development of technology with the following objectives:

  • To identify all coding regions in a large segment of genomic DNA.
  • To construct and order high-quality, tissue-specific, full-length cDNA libraries.

The group also indicated that many cDNAs have been well characterized by biologists working in areas other than the Human Genome Project. They suggested that mechanisms be developed to facilitate identification of STSs on these cDNAs and mapping of these cDNAs to chromosomes. The group recommended that NCHGR collaborate with other NIH components on this project. (See announcement of RFA HG-91-02.)


Meeting Participants

  • David Cox
    University of California, San Francisco
  • Glen Evans
    Salk Institute for Biological Studies
  • Bettie Graham
    NIH NCHGR
  • Mark Guyer
    NIH NCHGR
  • Daniel Hartl
    Washington University School of Medicine
  • Elke Jordan
    NIH NCHGR
  • Robert Moyzis
    Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Maynard Olson
    Washington University School of Medicine
  • Philip Sharp
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Edwin Southern
    University of Oxford
  • Sherman Weissman
    Yale University
  • Norton Zinder
    Rockefeller University

Reported by Bettie J. Graham, Chief
NCHGR Research Grants Branch

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Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v3n1).

Human Genome Project 1990–2003

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.

Human Genome News

Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.