As the genetic and physical mapping stage of the Human Genome Project nears completion, the focus is shifting toward the development of technologies for high-throughput analysis of gene function. Whereas DNA sequencing will enable the assignment of presumed function to a large number of genes in mice and humans, it is clear that the great majority of genes will have to be evaluated in vivo to accurately assess their role in a complex organism. While gene targeting in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells is the current method of choice for the characterization of gene function in mice, it remains relatively labor intensive and lacks the throughput required for analysis of genome function on a large scale. Alternative methods of efficient mutagenesis will clearly be required for this task. Chromosomal deletions are powerful tools in the genetic analysis of complex genomes, enabling the systematic identification and localization of functional units along defined chromosomal regions. Not only are deletions useful for the identification of genetic functions, but they serve as mapping reagents for existing mutations or traits. While their use has been an essential tool in Drosophila genetics, classical mutagenesis in mice has been logistically impractical for generating deletions. We have previously described an efficient method for generating radiation-induced deletion complexes at defined regions in the genome using ES cells. In this article, we detail the methodological aspects of this technology and describe the applications of chromosomal deletions for characterizing gene function in ways that make optimal use of the information generated by the first stage of the Genome Project.
Copyright 1997 Academic Press.