According to the UCSC Genome Browser in Santa Cruz, California, the first ten nucleotides of the first (biggest) chromosome in the human genome are TATAACACAA. Pretty cool, eh? But then again, so what? We spend billions of tax dollars, and all you can tell us is “TATA, ACACAA”? The next big trick is understanding what all those genome letters are trying to tell us. For instance, the annotations for the sequence TATAACACAA tell us that it’s part of a repeating sequence called a LINE, so we can safely conclude that it doesn’t code for blue eyes or snorting laughs. In a lot of ways, getting the genome is the easy part. Annotation is hard.
If you want to understand the mouse genome, a good place to go is FANTOM, the Japanese site devoted to the functional annotation of the mouse (FANTOM, get it?). This is a good illustration of the next step in squeezing value out of a genome. Annotations are attached to the genome that not only tell you where the genes are, but what their molecular function is and what cellular components they influence, among other things.
Now here’s the fun part: FANTOM has gotten so many requests for their cloned genes that they can’t keep up. The old way to send DNA samples, mailing them in vials packed in dry ice, was too expensive and slow. So they decided to cook the DNA samples for 60,000 genes straight into the pages of a book. Read about it here on the GNN site: A Novel Way to Send DNA. They’re trying a shorter run of a few genes in the journal Genome Research. If you want a sample of the DNA, just get out the scissors and snip it straight into a beaker. Too bad you can’t download it… but can you fax it?