HOUSTON, May 6, 2010 A pair of University of Houston researchers contributed to the assembly of the first comprehensive DNA sequence of an amphibian genome, which will shed light on the study of embryonic development, with implications for preventing birth defects and more effectively treating many human diseases.
Amy Sater and Dan Wells, both professors in UH's department of biology and biochemistry, collaborated with a number of other scientists in what Sater calls "a massive and international effort," landing them a cover story "The Genome of the Western Clawed Frog Xenopus tropicalis" in a recent issue of Science magazine, the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news and commentary.
Originating in West Africa, Xenopus tropicalis is a frog that is extremely important for studies of embryonic development and the regulation of cell division. The genes in frogs are highly similar to those in mice and humans, as are the key communication pathways. These molecular communication pathways serve as lines of communication between cells and are critical to control how cells choose to form the brain, limbs, muscle cells and the pancreas. They also are important for the maintenance and differentiation of stem cells, including those that maintain the lining of our intestines. Many experiments can be carried out in Xenopus more quickly and easily, as well as far less expensively, than in mouse embryos, and the tools provided by the genome assembly will transform research using this animal.
"In many cases, if one of these key communication pathways is misregulated due to a key gene being mutated, it can lead to several major types of cancer," Sater said. "This particular frog is a terrific animal in which to study these pathways because you can study both the biochemistry of how the pathways work, as well as what the pathway is actually doing in developing embryos.
"Working out the bi
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University of Houston