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Understanding Which Biological Processes Are Mediated By Which Genes

  July, 2 2001 2:27
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Gene Trapping And Targetting

With a large majority of human gene sequences now to hand, one the next big challenges for geneticists is to understand which biological processes are mediated by which genes.

As mice and humans (and their genomes) are similar in many respects, and mice are more amenable to genetic toggling, one strategy is to figure out the function of mouse genes to gain clues to the function of their human counterparts. And, as is the way in the age of 'omics', doing this on a large scale, in a systematic manner is the goal.

To this end, William Skarnes (of University of California, Berkeley) and colleagues now report on a reverse genetics procedure, called gene trapping (Nature Genetics, Vol. 28, No. 3, 01 July 2001). This general procedure, which has been used for researchers for some time, involves the 'pincering' out of a gene in a mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell, from which a mouse is then engineered. Sequencing the 'pincered' sequence reveals the identity of the gene, for which the generated mouse is deficient. One limitation has been that the genes amenable to trapping have been limited to those that are expressed at moderate or large quantities in the ES cell. By tweaking the method, Skarnes and colleagues have been able to not only selectively target genes encoding secretory and cell-surface proteins, but also, genes that are expressed at lower levels in the ES cell. The 500 gene-trapped ES cells generated by Skarnes and colleagues (and available to researchers upon request) represent a substantive resource for exploring gene function. Ian Jackson (of the Medical Research Council, Edinburgh) discusses the study and its context in an accompanying News & Views article.


Dr. William C. Skarnes
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, California, USA.
Telephone: +1 (510) 643-3206
Fax: +1 (510) 643-6791
e-mail: skarnes@socrates.berkeley.edu

Dr. Ian Jackson
MRC Human Genetics Unit
Edinburgh, UK.
Telephone: +44 131-467-8409
Fax: +44 131-343-2620
e-mail: ian@hgu.mrc.ac.uk

(C) Nature Genetics press release.

Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza

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