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The dog, the cow, and a hairy protozoan


The dog, cow and a hairy protozoan named 'oxy' are the latest genome stars to be given high-priority status for sequencing by the National Human Genome Research Institute at the US National Institutes of Health. Moderate priority has been assigned to the single-celled organism Trichoplax. An advisory board announced the latest candidates after their meeting on September 9 and 10.

(From top to bottom) Holstein-Friesian cow. "Ivan" Oxytricha.

These species join the chimp, chicken, honeybee, sea urchin, Tetrahymena, and several fungal species as the next organisms to enter the sequencing pipeline. High-priority status does not automatically translate to funding for sequencing. Rather, the organisms are considered to be part of a pool of candidates for sequencing at centers that are already on an NHGRI list of 'approved' centers. Those centers will begin work as new sequencing capacity becomes available.

The bovine genome proposal was submitted by scientists at Baylor College of Medicine, the US Department of Agriculture, the University of Illinois and Texas A & M University. The researchers hope sequencing the cow will inform agricultural studies and the human genome.

The dog project was championed by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and other canine researchers. The dog genome would benefit human health because of the similarities between canine and human disease and the dog's contribution to biomedical research.

The single-celled ciliate Oxytricha trifallax has been bumped up from moderate to high priority with the latest announcement. Researchers at the University of Utah, Princeton University and Utah Genome Center at the University of Utah say the oxy genome could help characterize unidentified genes in the human genome. Oxy carries a unique macronucleus that is packed purely of genes.

Glenn Herrick, who studies Oxytricha at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, says that he and colleagues anxiously awaited news of the genome's sequencing status. "I barely slept last night, dreaming of the fascinating questions the genome would allow us to ask," he says.

NHGRI already announced that the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri would sequence the chicken genome. Whitehead is set to decode the genomes of 15 species of fungi.

Washington University and Whitehead will work together to sequence the chimpanzee genome with colleagues in Germany and Asia. And the third sequencing center, at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, plans to decode the genome of the honeybee, sea urchin and a second species of fruit fly.

See related GNN stories
»Putting their best paw forward: Scientists make the case for sequencing the dog genome
»Sequencing priorities: Chickens and chimps get a boost
»Exploring the bovine genome

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NHGRI adds cow and dog to high priority list for sequencing model organisms. Press release, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (September 11, 2002).

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