Planet Earth

A Garden of Genomes

By Josie GlausiuszMar 1, 2001 6:00 AM


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Geneticists recently passed another milestone when they cracked the genome of the first plant— Arabidopsis thaliana, a tiny cress commonly used in laboratory research. And the effort to decode new organisms continues at an accelerating pace, although it may take many years to make sense of all the newly decoded DNA sequences. Virginia Walbot, a geneticist at Stanford University, compares current efforts to Darwin's epic voyage on the Beagle: "In the 19th century, collectors sent people out and said, 'Give us a list of the plants and animals and birds on various islands that you visit. Kill them, dissect them, stuff them, draw them, name them.'" Now there is a new imperative at the end of the list: "Sequence them" to learn what makes them tick. The following organisms are those that have already been the focus of sequencing.

Haemophilus influenzae, a cause of ear infections; it was the first of some five dozen microbes to be sequenced (1995) Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a widely studied yeast (1996) Escherichia coli, a ubiquitous intestinal bacterium (1997) Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterial cause of tuberculosis (1998) Caenorhabditis elegans, biologists' beloved roundworm (1998) Plasmodium falciparum, a malaria parasite (1999) Drosophila melanogaster, the much-studied fruit fly (2000) Homo sapiens, the species that invented genetic sequencing (working draft, 2000) • Mouse (2001) • Rice (2001) • Rat (in progress) • Zebra fish (in progress) • Puffer fish (in progress)

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