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Scientists at the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) have finished analysing and sequencing Chromosome 16. This completes the US share of the Human Genome Project, JGI said yesterday.

The research, published in today's issue of the science journal Nature, analysed the 880 genes, together consisting of 78m bases, making up Chromosome 16. These genes are implicated in the development of breast and prostate cancer, adult polycystic kidney disease, and Crohn's disease.

The scientists found many points where segmented duplication had occurred - sections of the chromosome were duplicated at other points on the chromosome, and even on entirely different chromosomes. They compared these regions to sequences in the genomes of other vertebrates, including chickens, dogs, mice and chimpanzees, looking for changes to the sequence since the last common ancestor, ranging from 5m to 400m years ago.

Work on Chromosome 16 at the DoE began in 1988 as part of DNA repair-gene studies. It was discovered that some of the genes on the chromosome were implicated in the detoxification and transport of heavy metals.

JGI is the first of the five primary Human Genome Project sequencing sites to publish a scientific article detailing the sequences of the chromosomes under their jurisdiction.

The JGI is now focusing its resources on other projects: "The considerable resources that the DoE has assembled to tackle the human genome are now being dedicated to illuminating the genomes of organisms that may figure into biological solutions to such challenges as economical hydrogen production, carbon sequestration, and environmental clean-up," said US Senator Pete Domenici, a Congressional proponent of efforts to sequence the human genome. ®

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