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J Biosci. 2009 Mar;34(1):139-59.

Neurospora as a model fungus for studies in cytogenetics and sexual biology at Stanford.

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Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Dodge's early work (1927-1940) on Neurospora genetics and sexual biology inspired Beadle and Tatum at Stanford to use N.crassa for their landmark discovery that genes specify enzymes. Neurospora has since become a model organism for numerous genetic, cytogenetic, biochemical, molecular and population biology studies. Neurospora is haploid in the vegetative phase with a transient diploid sexual phase. Its meiotic cells (asci) are large, allowing easy examination of dividing nuclei and chromosomes under a light microscope. The haploid meiotic products are themselves the sexual progeny that grow into vegetative cultures, thus avoiding the cumbersome testcrosses and complex dominance -recessive relationships, as in diploid organisms.The Perkins'laboratory at Stanford (1949-2007) played a pivotal role in advancing our knowledge of Neurospora genetics, sexual biology, cytogenetics and population biology. Since 1974, I have taken advantage of various chromosome-staining methods to examine ascus and ascospore development in wild type and in numerous mutant strains. In addition,I have used GFP-tagged genes to visualize the expression or silencing of unpaired genes in a post-transcriptional gene silencing process (meiotic silencing by unpaired DNA) that operates specifically during meiosis. The genome of N. crassa contains over 10 000 protein- coding genes. Gene knockouts or mutations in specific sequences may now be readily correlated with the observed cytological defects in the sexual stage, thus advancing our molecular understanding of complex processes during ascus and ascospore development.

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