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Prog Clin Biol Res. 1990;360:53-67.

Isolation and characterization of DNA probes for human chromosome 21.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, Life Technologies Inc., Gaithersburg, Maryland.


A coordinated effort to map and sequence the human genome has recently become a national priority. Chromosome 21, the smallest human chromosome accounting for less than 2% of the human genome, is an attractive model system for developing and evaluating genome mapping technology. Several strategies are currently being explored including the development of chromosome 21 libraries from somatic cell hybrids as reported here, the cloning of chromosome 21 in yeast artificial chromosomes (McCormick et al., 1989b), and the construction of chromosome 21 libraries using chromosome flow-sorting techniques (Fuscoe et al., 1989). This report describes the approaches used to identify DNA probes that are useful for mapping chromosome 21. Probes were successfully isolated from both phage and cosmid libraries made from two somatic cell hybrids that contain human chromosome 21 as the only human chromosome. The 15 cosmid clones from the WA17 library, reduced to cloned DNA sequences of an average size of 3 kb, total 525 kb of DNA which is approximately 1% of chromosome 21. From these clones, a set of polymorphic DNA markers that span the length of the long arm of chromosome 21 has been generated. All of the probes thus far analyzed from the WA17 libraries have been mapped to chromosome 21 both by physical and genetic mapping methods. It is therefore likely that the WA17 hybrid cell line contains human chromosome 21 as the only human component, in agreement with cytogenetic observation. The 153E7b cosmid libraries will provide an alternative source of cloned chromosome 21 DNA. Library screening techniques can be employed to obtain cloned DNA sequences from the same genetic loci of the two different chromosome 21s. Comparative analysis will allow direct estimation of DNA sequence variation for different regions of chromosome 21. Mapped DNA probes make possible the molecular analysis of chromosome 21 at a level of resolution not achievable by classical cytogenetic techniques (Graw et al., 1988; Van Keuren et al., 1989). Methods based on using region-specific chromosome 21 DNA probes and fluorescence in situ hybridization show promise for the rapid diagnosis of trisomy 21 (Lichter et al., 1988). The continued development of chromosome 21 DNA probes and advances in the technology of molecular cytogenetics will facilitate the study of the genetic organization of chromosome 21 and its role in the pathogenesis of Down syndrome.

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