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Neurospora genome to be sequenced thanks to grant from
National Science Foundation
By Charlie Schick

The US National Science Foundation is funding the sequencing of the Neurospora crassa genome. Like the mouse and the fruit fly, Neurospora, a fungus, has served as a model organism in research. The Neurospora genome comprises an estimated 43 million chemical letters residing on seven chromosomes. Some 1,000 genes of this bread mold are known. The actual number of genes may be 10,000 to 11,000, some of which have counterparts in the human genome.

The fungus Neurospora.

Genes shared by diverse species are likely to be involved in basic biological processes. Circadian rhythms, for example, are fundamentally similar in many species. A recent study found that the timing of the Neurospora biological clock is controlled by a feedback mechanism that is similar to the mechanism in flies and mice.

The sequencing will be carried out at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA, and a draft of the genome sequence is expected early next year.

A portion of the two-year, $5.25-million grant will be used to develop tools for analyzing the genome sequence. Whitehead researchers will begin annotating the data with the help of colleagues at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, the University of Kentucky, and the Fungal Genetics Stock Center in Kansas City.

"Sequencing the Neurospora genome is an important goal for biomedical research," says Bruce Birren, leader of this project and assistant director of the Whitehead Institute sequencing center. "Just as the genome sequences of the worm, fruit fly, yeast, and the human have helped accelerate biomedical research, the sequence of this fungus will provide new insights into life's processes."

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