|CDB lab hosts international planarian meeting
December 23, 2003 – Members of the
Laboratory for Evolutionary Regeneration (Kiyokazu Agata, Group Director) met with colleagues
from the Universities of Utah, Illinois and Chicago last month to kick off a collaborative project
in the genomic annotation of a species of planarian flatworm, Schmidtea mediterranea.
The labs converged on the island of Maui for the first Japan-US Planarian Meeting (November 7-14),
through the support of a Mitsubishi Research Grant in the Natural Sciences.
The meeting was convened to determine long-term work assignments and begin actual annotation
of planarian cDNAs, a process that involves the mapping of expressed sequence tags (ESTs)
to their chromosomal locations. ESTs (cDNA fragments complementary to mRNAs) serve as markers
of genomic coding domains and are commonly used in prospecting for new genes. The cDNA annotation
was performed using ESTs from a related species of planarian, Dugesia japonica.
During the seven-day meeting, work was divided up by country and function, with members
from the Japanese and American labs collaborating to combine and sort the ESTs by category,
such as genes thought to act as transcription factors or in the planarian nervous system.
Key genes were then identified in each category and annotated to establish their locations
The sequencing and annotation of the planarian genome promises to provide an invaluable
resource for the study of evolutionary biology, comparative genomics, and the genetics underlying
the unique and remarkable characteristics of planarians, whose ability to regenerate new
individuals from body fragments when cut may provide keys to the understanding of stem cell
biology, tissue plasticity and maintenance and other fundamental processes important to
The Japan-US Planarian Meeting was held as an adjunct activity to the Schmidtea mediterranea genome
Project (SmedGP), an international collaboration that seeks to develop a fully annotated
draft genome for this planarian species by the summer of 2004. Teams in Japan and the US
are using the complementary methods of rapid shotgun sequencing and the slower but more
thorough chromosome mapping to ensure the best possible coverage of the Schmidtea genome.
The next meeting of the participating labs will be held next year to begin DNA annotation
of the full genome.
Attendees to the first Japan-US Planarian Meeting