£3m funding to decode genomes of 17 mouse strains
Leading research funders are boosting genetics research by awarding £3 million (US$4.4M) to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to sequence the genomes of 17 mouse strains widely used in biomedical research. The award is made by the UK's Medical Research Council (£2.3M, US$3.4M) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (£0.6M, US$0.89M). The sequences will be made openly available to the research community.
The three-year project will use next-generation sequencing technologies to produce high-quality sequence for each of the strains. Mouse models are important for research into many human diseases. The DNA sequences of these 17 strains will help to identify and characterize many human disease-related genes.
"This award is a great boost for researchers around the world working to understand the genetic components of disease. We have already carried out pilot studies to guide our approach and can now move forward swiftly to deliver these new resources."
Dr David Adams, Investigator at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who will lead the project
Within the next 18 months, the team will use next-generation sequencing technologies to produce draft sequences of each strain. In order to maximise the benefits of this work, the draft sequences will be freely released to the research community through the Ensembl genome browser. Once these draft sequences are complete the team will then move towards a final draft of each strain.
Importantly, all groups who use these strains globally will be able to move quickly from knowledge of the often large genomic regions that contribute to variation to precise analysis of specific variants. The genome sequences will help them to home in on the gene or genes of interest, spending less time on finding the variant and more time and resources understanding the biological mechanisms.
"Mouse strains differ from each other in a wide range of medically important characteristics, and these differences are a result of complex genetic variations between them. By obtaining the complete genome sequences of each strain, we can identify all these genetic differences and these will allow us to discover the fundamental biological processes that result in these models of common human disease. The new sequencing technologies now allow us to deliver this sequence quickly and at a reasonable cost."
Professor Ian Jackson, Senior Scientist at the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh
The team have already carried out a pilot to guide this major effort, producing sequences from a region of mouse chromosome 17 that contains many of the genes involved in the immune system. These results reveal the amount of sequence data they must generate in order to provide high-quality genomes to the community.
Capitalizing on complementary skills, the new programme is a collaboration between the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit (Oxford), MRC Human Genetics Unit (Edinburgh), the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (Oxford), the European Bioinformatics Institute and the Jackson Lab in Bar Harbor, Maine, USA. An international scientific advisory board of leading mouse researchers will also support this project.
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute played a pivotal role in the genome reference sequence of the mouse strain called C57BL/6J: this sequence and its gene collection are available through the Ensembl genome browser and continue to be one of the most-used genomic resources.