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Vol.12, Nos.1-2   February 2002

JGI Completes Draft Pufferfish Genome, Begins Poplar Sequencing

Great Potential Benefitsfor Health, Environment, Energy Security

Having completed the draft sequence of the pufferfish Fugu rubripes genome in collaboration with an international consortium, the Production Genomics Facility* of DOE’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) is sequencing and assembling the genome of the poplar (Populus) tree (www.jgi.doe.gov). Fugu already is providing clues for finding similar genes and control elements in humans; a detailed knowledge of the poplar genome also will lead to significant environmental and energy security benefits. Brief descriptions of both projects follow.

Fugu rubripes is one of at least 100 species of pufferfish. It has about the same number of genes and regulatory regions as the human, but these elements are embedded in only 365 million bases as compared with the 3 billion that make up human DNA. With far less noncoding DNA to sort through, finding Fugu genes and their controlling sequences should be a much easier task. Although separated by evolution nearly half a billion years ago, both genomes retain the record of distant common ancestors.

Comparing the two vertebrate genome sequences will allow the discovery of new human genes and important elements that control or regulate their activity. Fugu is the first animal genome to be assembled by whole-genome shotgun sequencing and made available }to the public. The sequencing consortium plans to publish an analysis and is making all sequence information freely available via the JGI Web site.

With its small genome (550 Mb) and ease of propagation, this hybrid poplar tree is a valuable model organism for molecular studies of tree development, resulting in a trove of resources for conducting further genetic studies. The goal of the poplar genome sequencing project is to obtain coverage by the end of FY2003, using a whole-genome shotgun approach coupled with cosmid and BAC end sequencing.

The project is sponsored by the Carbon Management and Sequestration Program of DOEs Biological and Environmental Research program. The agencys main interest in this work is to understand and provide the scientific foundation for eventually enhancing the molecular mechanisms involved in capturing and sequestering (storing) carbon.

Counter Global Warming
Carbon capture is important for countering the global climate change caused by rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels from the burning of such fossil fuels as coal, oil, and natural gas for electricity and heat. Dramatically increased amounts of CO2 released in the last six decades will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years unless recaptured. Measured in billions of tons of carbon every year, this global challenge is immense.

Because carbon is stored in plant tissues, large biological systems such as trees are the principal way to sequester CO2 already in the atmosphere. Fast-growing poplars and other similar plants that produce the most biomass per acre per year are the best choices for carbon sequestration. Furthermore, once genomic data are obtained and the mechanisms involved are understood better, these plants can be modified genetically to take up and retain more carbon in an inaccessible form when they decompose.

Enhance U.S. Energy Security
Carbon stored in poplars has potential energy available for human use. Plants provide raw material either for direct combustion to generate electricity and heat or for conversion to liquid fuel (e.g., ethanol) to power vehicles. Genetic manipulations can alter plants so they will generate greater quantities of biomass and convert easily to biofuels, thus potentially reducing the nations dependence on foreign oil and enabling energy security.

The electronic form of the newsletter may be cited in the following style:
Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v12n1-2).

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.