Bar Harbor, Maine -- Mice and humans share about 95 percent of their genes, and mice are recognized around the world as the leading experimental model for studying human biology and disease. But, says Jackson Laboratory Professor Gary Churchill, Ph.D., researchers can learn even more "now that we really know what a laboratory mouse is, genetically speaking."
Churchill and Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, leading an international research team, created a genome-wide, high-resolution map of most of the inbred mouse strains used today. Their conclusion, published in Nature Genetics: Most of the mice in use today represent only limited genetic diversity, which could be significantly expanded with the addition of more wild mouse populations.
The current array of laboratory mouse strains is the result of more than 100 years of selective breeding. In the early 20th century, America's first mammalian geneticists, including Jackson Laboratory founder Clarence Cook Little, sought to understand the genetic processes that lead to cancer and other diseases. Mice were the natural experimental choice as they breed quickly and prolifically and are small and easy to keep.
Lacking the tools of molecular genetics, those early scientists started by tracking the inheritance of physical traits such as coat color. A valuable source of diverse-looking mouse populations were breeders of "fancy mice," a popular hobby in Victorian and Edwardian England and America as well as for centuries in Asia.
In their paper, Churchill and Pardo-Manuel de Villena report that "classical laboratory strains are derived from a few fancy mice with limited haplotype diversity." In contrast, strains that were derived from wild-caught mice "represent a deep reservoir of genetic diversity," they write.
The team created an online tool, the Mouse Phylogeny Viewer, for the research community to acces
|Contact: Joyce Peterson|