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Massive Daphnia genome leads to understanding gene-environment interactions
Date:2/4/2011

DURHAM, N.H. From an environmental perspective, Daphnia pulex -- the waterflea is the best-studied organism on the planet. Scientists know how this species responds to pollution, predators, day and night, making it an important model for ecological and evolutionary research. Its genome, however, remained elusive, limiting understanding of how the environment and genes interact.

Until now. An international team of researchers comprising the Daphnia Genomics Consortium, including four from the University of New Hampshire's Hubbard Center for Genome Studies, has described the complete genome of Daphnia, opening the door to enhanced knowledge of this species and its response to its environment. And, despite the Daphnia's near-microscopic size, it contains more than 31,000 genes, more than any other animal with a complete gene sequence, including humans. The findings are detailed in an article in the journal Science this week.

"It's personally a major achievement," says W. Kelley Thomas, Hubbard Professor in Genomics and director of the HCGS, adding that the Daphnia sequence was among the center's original goals at its founding in 2001. "This genome gives biologists and ecologists the tools they need to do genomic analysis on this organism from an ecological perspective."

The end product is a better understanding of what genes matter for organisms to cope with environmental stresses like pollutants and global warming and of the technologies necessary to understand how these genes function within an animal that is easily studied in water reservoirs around the globe.

The study, "The Ecoresponsive Genome of Daphnia pulex," was led by researchers at Indiana University's Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics (CGB), Utah State University, the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute, and UNH's Hubbard Center. It found that the microscopic freshwater crustacean contains at least
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Contact: Beth Potier
beth.potier@unh.edu
603-862-1566
University of New Hampshire
Source:Eurekalert

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