The UK's Sanger Centre, which has decoded a third of the human genetic code, will soon begin work on the zebrafish genome. The results of the project, which is to be funded by the Wellcome Trust, will be made freely available. Earlier this year, some scientists were concerned that the Sanger Centre would drop the zebrafish genome following rumours that US firm Celera Genomics might launch its own project. But Celera have no such plans, reports last week's Science.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a favourite model organism of scientists studying vertebrate development - its embryos are transparent, allowing researchers to view the growing organs. Its entire genetic code contains around 1.7 million base-pairs of DNADNA, compared to the three billion base-pairs that make up the human sequence.
Fish genomes have long regions of 'synteny' where the order of genes is similar to that found in the human genome, zebrafish researcher Leonard Zon told last week's Nature. This will allow genome 'ping-ponging' - identifying human genes that correspond to genes important in zebrafish development - he said.