Sanger Release - zebrafish sequencing

Don Powell don at
Tue Nov 21 12:08:42 EST 2000

                Sanger Centre to sequence zebrafish 
                    genome in new Wellcome Trust 
               Powerful model organism for genetics, 

In a major new initiative, the Wellcome Trust announced that the 
next target for genome sequencing would be a small fish called the 
zebrafish [image available]. With a genome only half the size of 
that of mouse or human, the zebrafish will play a key role in finding 
genes in the other genomes. The new project is predicted to take 
three years. 

The announcement closely follows a Workshop held at the 
Wellcome Trust Genome Campus =96 home of the Sanger Centre =96 
attended by international scientists in the zebrafish research 

The small zebrafish is a powerful force in biology. Adults are about 
4 cm long, the female can lay 200 eggs per week, and the 
embryos are transparent and reach maturity in 2=963 months. 
Exquisitely precise tools have been developed to generate and 
analyse alterations in the zebrafish genome. In combination, these 
features mean that exchange of sequence information between 
human and zebrafish projects will accelerate progress in each. The 
humble zebrafish will be used to find meaning for the code in the 
human genome. 

Leonard I Zon, MD, Children=92s Hospital of Boston MA, said, =92One of 
the great advantages of zebrafish is the ability to produce, very 
readily, mutations that are relevant to human health and disease. 
This genomics initiative will superimpose those mutations on 
disease loci identified through the work of the Human Genome 
Project.=92 Development of blood cells is one example where 
mutations in the zebrafish genome closely resemble human 
disease such as anaemia or thalassaemia.

Professor Christiane N=FCsslein-Volhard, from the Max-Planck 
Institute in T=FCbingen, Germany, said, =91Zebrafish is the ideal 
organism to study the function of human genes,=92 Professor 
N=FCsslein-Volhard, Nobel Prize Winner in 1995, is studying the way 
the body plan is laid down during development. The T=FCbingen group 
has identified more than 1000 mutations in the zebrafish, many of 
which affect processes with great relevance to human physiology 
and disease, such as heart function, hearing, blood formation, 
vision, cartilage and bone formation, nervous system development. 
These are now studied in many laboratories worldwide.

Professor Philip Ingham, University of Sheffield, UK, said, 
=91Sequencing the zebrafish genome will provide a rapid route to 
discovering the molecular basis of these mutations and hence to 
an understanding of the biochemical function of the genes which 
they identify.=92 One area of Professor Ingham=92s research is an 
important gene in development called sonic hedgehog: mutations in 
this gene cause one of the most common forms of human birth 
defect, holoprosencephaly.

Dr Michael Dexter, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said, =91This 
builds on the seminal work, supported by the Wellcome Trust, on 
the human genome sequencing project and will help all our future 
studies on gene function, leading to health care benefits.=92

Many genes are similar between genomes of human and those of 
less complex animals. The genomic information from the worm C. 
elegans, the first animal to be sequenced, has been used to find 
Alzheimer=92s genes. However, the worm and the fly Drosophila do 
not possess many of the complex organ systems found in higher 
organisms. Being a vertebrate, the zebrafish (Danio rerio) has 
blood, kidney and optical systems that share many features of the 
human systems. Work on this organism will complement that on 
the mouse, which is the most widely used mammalian genetic 
model organism. The Sanger Centre and the Wellcome Trust are 
also participating in an international consortium to sequence the 
mouse (press release 6 October).

Layering of genomic information of different species =96 comparative 
genomics =96 is an especially useful method for identifying genes 
and gene control regions because similarities are revealed. If the 
organism provides unique methods for biological study =96 as do both 
the zebrafish and the mouse =96 then the combination of biological 
and sequence information can advance research more rapidly.

As with all projects undertaken by the Sanger Centre and the 
Wellcome Trust, the sequence information will be released rapidly, 
and made available to researchers without cost or restriction. 

1.  The Wellcome Trust is the world=92s largest medical 
    research charity with an annual spend of some =A3600 
    million in financial year 1999/2000. The Wellcome Trust 
    supports more than 5000 researchers at 300 locations 
    in 42 different countries, laying the foundations for the 
    healthcare advances of the 21st century and helping to 
    maintain the UK=92s reputation as one of the worlds 
    leading scientific nations. As well as funding major 
    initiatives in the public understanding of science, the 
    Wellcome Trust is the country=92s leading supporter of 
    research into the history of medicine.

More information about the Zbrafish mailing list