Scientists have sequenced the genomes (genetic codes) of 17 strains of common lab mice--an achievement that lays the groundwork for the identification of genes responsible for important traits, including diseases that afflict both mice and humans.
Mice represent the premier genetic model system for studying human diseases. What's more, the 17 strains of mice included in this study are the most common strains used in lab studies of human diseases. By enabling scientists to list all DNA differences between the 17 strains, the new genome sequences will speed the identification of subsets of mutations and genes that contribute to disease.
The study was conducted by an international team of researchers and was partially funded by the National Science Foundation. It is covered in this week's issue of Nature.
This study also involved comparing the DNA sequences of four wild-derived mouse strains (three sub-species of mice and one separate mouse species) in order to reconstruct their evolutionary histories. Results reveal striking variations in strain relationships across the genome. In other words, the evolutionary connection between mouse strains depends on which stretch of DNA is considered. "Mouse genomes are complex patchworks of different histories," concluded Bret Payseur who worked with Michael White on this part of the study. (Both researchers are from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.)
These results underscore: 1) the importance of basing genetic comparisons between species on as much genomic information as possible; and 2) the potential complexities of studying the evolution of disease-causing mutations in order to help explain their mechanisms.
For more information, see a press release on this study issued by The Welcome Trust Sanger Institute.