To assess the utility of expressed sequence tag (EST) sequencing as a method of gene discovery in the ciliated protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila, we have sequenced either the 5′ or 3′ ends of 157 clones chosen at random from two cDNA libraries constructed from the mRNA of vegetatively growing cultures. Of 116 total non-redundant clones, 8.6% represented genes previously cloned in Tetrahymena. Fifty-two percent had significant identity to genes from other organisms represented in GenBank, of which 92% matched human proteins. Intriguing matches include an opioid-regulated protein, a glutamate-binding protein for an NMDA-receptor, and a stem-cell maintenance protein. Eleven-percent of the non-Tetrahymena specific matches were to genes present in humans and other mammals but not found in other model unicellular eukaryotes, including the completely sequenced Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our data reinforce the fact that Tetrahymena is an excellent unicellular model system for studying many aspects of animal biology and is poised to become an important model system for genome-scale gene discovery and functional analysis.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2