Scientists bag frog genome

Lab favorite arrives relatively late to the genetic revolution

Frogs have hopped onto the list of organisms that have had their genetic codes unraveled.

A new study, published April 30 in Science, lays out the genetic blueprint of the Western clawed frog, Xenopus tropicalis. A larger cousin of X. tropicalis, called Xenopus laevis, is a popular laboratory organism for studying development. But with a genome about half the size of X. laevis’, the Western clawed frog has easier DNA to decode, says Uffe Hellsten of the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Analysis of the Western clawed frog’s genome reveals that versions of 80 percent of genes that have been linked to disease in humans turn up in frogs.

Researchers hope that the genome sequence will help scientists track down the molecular steps that lead to amphibians’ high sensitivity to hormones and other toxins and offer clues to what is causing a worldwide decline of the animals.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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