Celera Sequences Mouse Genome

Although mouse DNA is every bit as hard to decipher as human DNA, and just as important in finding genes to combat disease, there was no brouhaha today when Celera Genomics of Rockville, Maryland, announced that it has sequenced and assembled the entire mouse genome. The cool reception is due in part to the fact that scientists won't be able to see the data from this important research effort unless they pay a hefty fee.

Celera President J. Craig Venter made it clear that he has no intention of publishing the results in a scientific journal. Venter said Celera will "self-publish" a report describing its work. But anyone who wants to see the raw data will have to get a subscription from Celera. Company spokesperson Heather Kowalski declined to say how much a subscription will cost, noting that fees are negotiated on an individual basis. Current subscribers to the Celera databases will not automatically get to see the mouse genome; they will have to buy an "upgrade" to do so.

Celera set out last April to gather genomic DNA from three strains of mouse (129X1/SvJ, DBA/2J, and A/J). Today, Celera says it has accumulated 15.9 billion bases of raw data, providing 6-fold redundancy, or enough to enable its bioinformatics crew to assemble the genome. The company claims its sequence of 2.6 billion bases of nonredundant DNA represents 99% of the mouse genome. Celera officials say they did not rely on publicly available mouse data, arguing that this gives credence to their "whole-genome shotgun" strategy that relies on computer power more than DNA maps to work out the structure of genomes.

Using supercomputers and proprietary software, Celera pieced the fragments of DNA data together in what it claims to be a well-ordered and fairly cohesive structure: About 95% of the DNA bases are said to be in segments 100,000 base pairs long, and about 80% are in segments of 1 million base pairs or more. This high degree of contiguity should help researchers--at least those able to pony up the fee--to identify novel genes and figure out their function.