Mouse Genome may Help to Determine Causes of Environmental Disease

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 30 2007 2:52 PM

Scientists are planning to study the DNA of 15 mouse strains, commonly used in biomedical studies, to determine the genes that are related to susceptibility to environmental disease.

A mouse haplotype map, a tool that separates chromosomes in to many small segments and helps find genes and genetic variations in mice, will be used for the purpose.

The haplotype map, available online, is the first published full descriptive analysis of the "Mouse Genome Resequencing and SNP Discovery Project" conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

"These data allow researchers to compare the genetic makeup of one mouse strain to another, and perform the necessary genetic analyses to determine why some individuals might be more susceptible to disease than another," Nature magazine quoted Dr. David A. Schwatz, NIEHS Director, as saying.

"This puts us one step closer to understanding individual susceptibility to environmental toxins in humans. We also hope that pharmaceutical companies developing new treatments for environmental diseases will find these data and this paper as a valuable resource," he added.

The paper talks about the laborious and technology-driven approaches used for the identification of 8.25 million high-quality Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP), single genetic changes or variations that can occur in a DNA sequence, distributed among the genomes of 15 mouse strains.

"The database of mouse genetic variation should facilitate a wide range of important biological studies, and helps demonstrate the utility of this array technology approach," said Dr. David R. Cox, Chief Scientific Officer at Perlegen Sciences, Inc. which also worked on the project.

The Perlegen scientists C57BL/6J, the first mouse strain to undergo DNA sequencing, as their standard reference to conduct the re-sequencing on the four wild-derived and eleven classical mouse strains. They also discovered common DNA variation in the human genome with the help of a technology called oligonucleotide.

The researchers looked at about 1.49 billion bases (58 percent) of the 2.57 billion base pair of their standard reference strain, and the data were then used to develop the haplotype map, containing 40,898 segments.

"The data will be a valuable resource to many, including the National Toxicology Program," Schwartz says.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is an interagency program, headquartered at NIEHS, with the mission to coordinate, conduct and communicate toxicological research across the US Government.

"The NTP is looking forward to exploring the responses of these strains of mice to various environmental agents," said Dr. John Bucher, the new Associate Director of the NTP.

According to researchers, systematically characterizing even more mouse strains for susceptibility to toxins will not only help with genetic analysis, but better position researchers to do intervention studies.