Freedom of Information Act Office
IC Directors' Meeting Highlights
April 11, 2005
|From:||Director, Executive Secretariat|
|Subject:||IC Directors Meeting Highlights—March 10, 2005|
I. Update on Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing (MPSS) database for RNA and the NIH Mouse Transcriptome Project
Dr. Battey updated the group on the database being developed using MPSS technology to help answer questions about novel genes by determining their tissue expression. Resulting information should be valuable in determining candidate functions for a given unknown gene and candidate genes for a given physiological process. The gathering of such information is often the first step a laboratory scientist will take when confronted with a gene of unknown function. A searchable database of the tissue expression of every gene would be widely used by researchers, would decrease duplication, and would accelerate the transition of genome information from sequence to biological and disease-related function.
He then introduced Dr. Chris Austin, NHGRI, and Dr. Rob Morell, NIDCD, to discuss the trans-NIH collaborative project that is constructing this database: the Mouse Transcriptome Project (MTP). He urged its continued trans-NIH support so that it might fulfill its groundbreaking potential. In 2003, with the leadership and encouragement of Dr. Battey and Dr. Collins, the NIH scientific leadership chose the mouse as the prime animal model for the first transcriptome to sample in this depth because of its experimental versatility, the clinical relevance of many mouse disease models, the completion of the mouse genome sequencing, and the ease of manipulation of the genome. Eventually, its resulting database will contain a large collection of normal mouse tissues or cell types that will serve as the basis for further disease-state studies.
Dr. Austin described the history and the structure of the MTP and the appearance of its first data on the NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus site in October of last year. Dr. Morell noted the growing synergy between the MTP and the MPSS data generated by NIDCD, explaining the NIDCD resource site and the various links and libraries that build on the exciting scientific potential of the mouse project. He gave some examples of the accelerating findings and how the resource is helping bench scientists to separate the “wheat from the chaff” in gene expression studies.
II. Steering Committee Update
Dr. Kington reviewed the main topics at the three Steering Committee meetings since his last IC Directors Meeting update. At its January 6 meeting, the SC discussed scientific review and evaluation and an NIH executive retreat; at the February 3 meeting, a proposed Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives as well as items related to the NIH Dashboard project; and at the February 17 meeting, Administrative Restructuring Advisory Committee activities.
Dr. Hodes’ talk “Longevity: From Behavior to Biology” quickly garnered the group’s personal as well as scientific interest. Dr. Hodes discussed studies of caloric restriction (CR) starting with the 1980s when Harrison and Holiday posed two models for how caloric restriction might affect aging:
- a "mechanical" pathway whereby lower caloric intake
might slow reactive oxygen species damage to multiple tissues,
- a regulated pathway wherein lower caloric intake might engender a sensed response and specific signal transduction events that slow aging.
Dr. Hodes then summarized a number of fascinating studies involving yeast (S. cerevisiae strains), C. elegans, and Drosophila that indicate that the sir2 (a silent information regulator) gene recognizes food deprivation within the cells and sets into motion the changes that increase the organism's life span. When faced with a stressor (such as food deprivation) sir2-like genes activate deacetylation events that prevent cell death by mechanisms that include enhancing anti-apoptotic defenses. Recent findings suggest that similar mechanisms work in rodent and human cells, in which CR activates SIRT-1, the mammalian form of sir2. The case for sirtuins as key to CR's ability to extend life was also strengthened by the finding that CR does not extend life in animals that have been genetically altered to lack sirtuins. Dr. Hodes ended his discussion by showing an interesting and provocative slide of Stephen L. Helfand’s indicating that the polyphenols (sir2 activators) in such products as red wine and various fruit juices may be responsible for effects on the aging process.
During a brief discussion of the beneficial findings related to moderate red wine intake, Dr. Li aptly brought the group’s attention to current NIAAA-supported research on Pueraria lobata (kudzu) root, a 1400-year-old Chinese treatment for alcohol intoxication, that will measure its effects on the pharmacokinetics of alcohol ingestion and on alcohol-induced physiological, subjective, and psychomotor responses.
Dr. Zerhouni thanked Dr. Gallagher for his outstanding service as Director of the NIH Office of Community Liaison as he moves into the private sector.
He closed the meeting by recognizing Dr. Olden’s leadership as Director of NIEHS since 1991 and wished him much success as he returns to his cancer research in the laboratory. Attendees expressed their appreciation and best wishes as well.
cc: OD Senior Staff