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Xenopus comparative genomics: coordinating integrated and comparative functional genomics for understanding normal and pathologic development


Elucidation of the function of the 25.000 genes in the human genome will he significantly accelerated by exploiting comparative genomic approaches in an integrative manner. The international community has or will soon have access to the complete genome seq uence of' several organisms, already validated as excellent experimental models of developmental biology. It is essential that European scientists rapidly co-ordinate an efficient interfacing in their strengths in comparative bioinformatics and functional genomic approaches. This synergy towards comparative functional gcnomics will be an inescapable component in the process of exploiting and dissecting gene regulation and function of human development and disease. Comparisons across several vertebrate and i nvertebrate systems allow us by bioinformatics analysis to rapidly identify thousands ofsequenced- conserved orthologous genes. The rationale is that orthologous genes with important biological roles will most likely have conserved functions in mammals, in cluding humans. The aim of the proposal is to organise the coordination of the research of several recognised European laboratories using the amphibian Xenopus as a model to identify vertebrate genes of medical and developmental interest. The ease of study ing gene expression and function in vivo in this model will facilitate the identification of conserved functions. To fulfil these goals, the consortium will increase the collaboration between these labs und coordinate the "vertical" studies from m silico d efinition of orthologous genes (comparisons across all available genomic models) down to gene expression and function studies. Analyses of many genes by high throughput techniques will be followed by in depth analysis of gene sets selected for their import ance in human health. Another side-product of our action is the dissemination of the improvements of biotechnological techniques made by some of us for modulating gene function in Xenopus.

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