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Biologists determine genetic blueprint of social amoeba

An international team that includes biologists at the University of California, San Diego has determined the complete genetic blueprint of Dictyostelium discoideum, a simple social amoeba long used by researchers as a model genetic system, much like fruit flies and laboratory mice, to gain a better understanding of human diseases.

The scientific details of this seven-year-long genetic sequencing effort, which involved 97 scientists from 22 institutions in five countries, are contained in a paper featured on the cover of the May 5 issue of the journal Nature.

The international team's achievement will have an immediate application for biomedical researchers, who can now mine the Dictyostelium genome for a host of genes that cause human disease, thus gaining a new and efficient way to study those human diseases with a simple organism in their laboratories.

For evolutionary biologists, the genetic blueprint of Dictyostelium, the first amoeba genome to be sequenced, has clarified the place that Dictyostelium occupies in the hierarchy of life.

"It is more closely related to fungi and animals than we had previously thought," says Adam Kuspa, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and a senior author of the Nature paper.

The discovery will also improve geneticists' understanding of how the genes from Dictyostelium and other genetic model organisms have been conserved or adapted through evolution in humans and other organisms.

"The cells which gave rise to plants and animals had more types of genes available to them than are presently found in either plants or animals," explains William Loomis, a professor of biology at UCSD and one of the key members of the international sequencing effort. "Specialization appears to lead to loss of genes as well as the modification of copies of old genes. As each new genome is sequenced, we learn more about the history and physiology of the pr
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Source:University of California - San Diego


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