Genome Institute researchers make scientific double play


Wesley Warren, PhD and Richard K. Wilson, PhD contribute to two separate cover stories in Science and Nature in the same week.

Wesley Warren, PhD leads the Comparative Genomics efforts at the Genome Institute. For the past several years, he has been working on a wide range of sequencing projects focused on decoding the genomes of animals such as the platypus, zebra finch, domestic cat, elephant shark, and most recently, the tsetse fly. Warren is also co-director of a consortium tasked with the sequencing and characterization of sex chromosomes from a variety of species. Earlier this year, the tsetse fly project and his recent work on the Y chromosome culminated in two separate manuscripts that were submitted to Science and Nature respectively. Warren soon after learned that the manuscripts would also be featured on the cover of each journal.

“I’m personally reminded of the week in 1975 when Bruce Springsteen scored covers of both Time and Newsweek,” said Richard K. Wilson, who is the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine and director of the Genome Institute, and is also an author on both papers. “These two journals only publish a few percent of the manuscripts they receive for review. The environments are extremely competitive and to be featured in either really says something about the quality and importance of the research,” he added.

In the tsetse fly article, Warren and a large consortium of colleagues described the many interesting properties of the tsetse fly genome. “The first sequenced tsetse fly genome now provides us with a set of protein coding genes to experimentally manipulate. This will hopefully reduce the ability of this host fly to transmit disease to humans,” said Warren.

For the Y chromosome article, the Genome Institute contributed sequence data, assembly expertise and biological insight. "We discovered that Y chromosomes in mammals retain widely expressed genetic regulators that are dosage-sensitive,” he said. Other Genome Institute authors include Susie Rock, Colin Kremitzki, Tina Graves and Robert Fulton. “The Y chromosome represents a fascinating tale of chromosome decay but with a twist, a unique survival story," added Warren.

Collaborators for the Y chromosome manuscript included David C. Page, PhD and members of his lab at the Whitehead Institute and the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center headed by Richard A. Gibbs, PhD.

The tsetse fly project was a part of the International Glossina Genome Initiative and the paper featured nearly 200 co-authors.

“Genome sequencing is only a starting point in our efforts to disseminate critically needed genomic information to our main audience - scientists - who use these templates to test hypotheses that are at the core of our understanding of biology,” said Warren.

“When a collaborative but diverse group of scientists can work together to successfully produce results such as those described by the Y chromosome and tsetse fly genome manuscripts, the public should be excited about the return on an investment in large-scale genomics,” added Wilson. “These two projects highlight how rewarding this approach can be.”