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Complete sequencing of the Fugu WAGR region from WT1 to PAX6: Dramatic compaction and conservation of synteny with human chromosome 11p13

The National Academy of Sciences
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  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology


The pufferfish Fugu rubripes has a genome ≈7.5 times smaller than that of mammals but with a similar number of genes. Although conserved synteny has been demonstrated between pufferfish and mammals across some regions of the genome, there is some controversy as to what extent Fugu will be a useful model for the human genome, e.g., [Gilley, J., Armes, N. & Fried, M. (1997) Nature (London) 385, 305–306]. We report extensive conservation of synteny between a 1.5-Mb region of human chromosome 11 and <100 kb of the Fugu genome in three overlapping cosmids. Our findings support the idea that the majority of DNA in the region of human chromosome 11p13 is intergenic. Comparative analysis of three unrelated genes with quite different roles, WT1, RCN1, and PAX6, has revealed differences in their structural evolution. Whereas the human WT1 gene can generate 16 protein isoforms via a combination of alternative splicing, RNA editing, and alternative start site usage, our data predict that Fugu WT1 is capable of generating only two isoforms. This raises the question of the extent to which the evolution of WT1 isoforms is related to the evolution of the mammalian genitourinary system. In addition, this region of the Fugu genome shows a much greater overall compaction than usual but with significant noncoding homology observed at the PAX6 locus, implying that comparative genomics has identified regulatory elements associated with this gene.

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