Skip To Content
NSF Logo Search GraphicGuide To Programs GraphicImage Library GraphicSite Map GraphicHelp GraphicPrivacy Policy Graphic
OLPA Header Graphic

NSF Press Release


NSF PR 00-64 - September 26, 2000

Media contact:

 Cheryl Dybas

 (703) 292-8070

Program contact:

 Phil Harriman

 (703) 292-8439

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Whitehead Institute Receives National Science Foundation Grant to Sequence Neurospora

The Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge,Massachusetts, has received a two-year, $5.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to sequence the genome of the common laboratory fungus Neurospora crassa and to deposit the information in public databases.

"The National Science Foundation is delighted to support the complete sequencing of the genome of Neurospora crassa," says Rita Colwell, director of NSF. "This will be the first complete sequence of a filamentous fungus available in the public domain. It will be of extraordinary value not only because of the widespread use of this organism as a model in biological research, but also because of the boost it will give to research on a wide range of related organisms of scientific and economic importance."

Adds Mary Clutter, assistant director of NSF for biological sciences,"Fungi include over 250,000 different species, with members central to every ecosystem on the planet. As a group they are economically important,being used both for the production of foodstuffs and for industrial production of enzymes and chemicals. Knowing the complete sequence of the genome of a model filamentous fungus will provide the key to understanding the biology of a broad range of fungi and will contribute to understanding the biology of many other organisms."

The Whitehead researchers, with collaborators at the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, the University of Kentucky and the Fungal Genetics Stock Center at the University of Kansas, will also initiate the annotation of the sequence, and the identification of genes and other important features of the genome, as well as develop tools to display the information in ways that will be useful to researchers. The Neurospora genome consists of 43 million base pairs, or DNA letters.

"As the largest contributor to the human genome project, the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research is uniquely poised to take on this task," says Eric Lander, director of the center. "We hope to apply the genomic tools we've developed to sequence the human genome to rapidly decipher the sequence of Neurospora."

Like the fruit fly, Neurospora has long served as a powerful laboratory model to study genetics and biological mechanisms. In fact, it was with Neurospora that scientists first demonstrated the concept that one gene makes one corresponding protein. The ease of growth and the extensive genetic tools available for Neurospora make it a convenient system for the study of many processes found in higher organisms. It is the most intensively investigated member of the filamentous fungi, a group of organisms that are more complex than yeasts and that are of profound significance to human health and welfare.

"As a result, sequencing the Neurospora genome is an important goal for biomedical research," says Bruce Birren, assistant director of the Whitehead Institute sequencing center and leader of this project. "Just as the genome sequences of the yeast, worm, fruit fly, and the human have helped accelerate biomedical research, sequencing this fungus will provide many new insights into life's processes.

"Many labs around the world are eager to exploit this sequence information and carry out exciting biology, but they lack the resources and expertise needed to efficiently sequence the genome. Making the Neurospora genome sequence available in the public databases and developing new approaches to analysis of the sequence will accelerate research in many areas," says Birren.

Another important outcome of Neurospora sequencing will be Its contribution to the growing field of comparative genomics. Because many important genes are conserved among species, finding genes in one organism will help shed light on analogous genes in other organisms (including humans). Comparing the DNA sequences of various organisms will also help researchers understand the key genes and genetic mechanisms that have been conserved throughout evolution.




National Science Foundation
Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230, USA
Tel: 703-292-8070
FIRS: 800-877-8339 | TDD: 703-292-5090

NSF Logo Graphic