(September 2, 2005) -- A series of discoveries by an internationalconsortium of scientists, including a team from The University ofQueensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), will transformour understanding of how our genome works to produce a complex organismlike a human being.
The findings of the consortium 'FANTOM', led by the Genomic SciencesCenter, RIKEN Yokohama Institute and Genome Science Laboratory andRIKEN Wako Institute, will be published today in two papers in theprestigious journal Science.
Spokesman for the IMB team Professor David Hume, who has beena member of the FANTOM consortium for the past 5 years, and a seniorauthor on both papers, said the massive data sets produced by theconsortium, which were on the same scale as the completion of the humangenome sequence, provided the scientific community with the tools tounderstand the control of protein production, truly the software oflife.
"Genes provide the code for making the building blocks of ourbodies -- the proteins -- and the consortium has a made a massive steptowards identifying all of those building blocks. But the genome mustalso contain the code to ensure that protein building blocks are madein the right place at the right time.
"The new data provides several indications of the molecularbasis of evolution and why we are so much more complex than the simpleworm, despite the fact that we only have a small number of additionalconventional genes.
"In simple terms, the data shows that in mammals eachindividual gene uses multiple different mechanisms to produce differentforms of protein. In a sense, each 'gene' is actually multipledifferent genes," Professor Hume explained.
The second of the papers in Science deals extensively withanother area to which the IMB team has made a major contribution;outputs of the genome (RNAs) that do not code for protein.
IMB Director Professor John Mattick, co-author of thesepapers, has predicted the importance of non-coding RNA in developmentand evolution in a series of papers published internationally over thepast five years, including an article published in this same issue ofScience entitled Functional genomics of non-coding RNA.
"I congratulate all IMB staff and students involved in thisresearch collaboration, particularly David Hume who has been pivotal indeveloping the IMB's partnership with RIKEN over several years."
As part of the collaboration with RIKEN, Professor Hume'sgroup has recently been awarded a grant from RIKEN to continue thetranslation of this work into the next phase, the Human Genome networkproject.
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