GENET archive


ANIMALS: International Rhesus Macaque Genome Sequencing andAnalysis Consortium publishes results

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  LSU professors monkey around with the rhesus macaque genome
SOURCE: Louisiana State University, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   12.04.2007

LSU professors monkey around with the rhesus macaque genome
International Rhesus Macaque Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium
publishes results

Photograph available for download at

Since the 2001 launch of the Human Genome Project, which released a
first draft of the entire sequence of human DNA, many researchers have
dedicated themselves to creating a library of comprehensive, species-
specific genetic sequence "maps" available for study. Scientists at LSU
recently took part in the International Rhesus Macaque Sequence and
Analysis Consortium, which successfully detailed the full DNA sequence
of the rhesus macaque, the third primate - including humans - to undergo
sequencing. The results will be published in the journal Science on
Friday, April 13.

The rhesus macaque, a primate species that had a common ancestor with
humans and chimps but diverged from the human-chimp lineage
approximately 25 million years ago, still shares about 93 percent of its
genome sequence with humans. This makes the macaque an integral part of
primate evolutionary studies and could allow researchers to gain a
better understanding of HIV/AIDS in humans.

"Mapping the macaque genome is a significant achievement for many
reasons," said Mark Batzer, Andrew C. Pereboom Alumni Departmental
Professor of Biological Sciences at LSU and leader of two of the
sequence analysis units of the consortium. "It provides additional
insight into the pathways involved in the infection and spread of
pathogens in primates, which could potentially lead to the development
of new and improved treatment options, vaccines and other preventative
measures in humans."

Mobile elements, an integral part of this study and one of Batzer's
specialties, are "selfish" DNA sequences that duplicate themselves many
times and integrate throughout the genomes in which they reside. These
elements exist at copy numbers of 100,000 elements or more, make up
about 50 percent of primate genomes and were generally thought to have
no function. However, these elements have an impact on genome structure
and are even involved in shaping genomes. Mobile elements have also been
shown to cause many diseases in humans such as breast cancer, familial
hypercholesterolemia and Tay-Sachs and can also be involved in the
creation of new genes and gene families. As a consequence, the impact of
mobile elements on genomes in general, and on primate genomes in
particular, is multifaceted.

Genetic and physiological similarities with humans make rhesus macaques
the most commonly used nonhuman primate in biomedical research. Their
response to infectious diseases such as SIV, or simian immunodeficiency
virus, is similar enough to the human reaction to HIV, or human
immunodeficiency virus, that these primates serve as a dominant model
for disease studies and vaccine development. Because of this, access to
the complete macaque sequence offers scientists even more in-depth
research avenues into current and pressing health issues affecting
society today.

Mobile elements are commonly utilized for evolutionary and population
genetic studies. Batzer and his colleagues investigated the overall
mobile element composition and evolution of mobile elements within the
rhesus genome in a companion paper also published in the April 13th
issue of Science. This detailed and complex analysis was a collaboration
with Brygg Ullmer, assistant professor of computer science at LSU's
Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, along with Web Miller from
the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., and Arian Smit
from the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Wash. Ullmer used
CCT's state-of-the-art supercomputing facilities, including SuperMike,
for the computational analysis of the rhesus macaque genome. "To get a
sense for the importance of high-performance computing to this project,
a single run of our analysis would have taken 20 to 30 years - nonstop -
on a common desktop computer," Ullmer said.

The data generated by Batzer, Ullmer and the rest of the International
Consortium will bolster research in neuroscience, behavioral biology,
endocrinology and many other important fields of study.

It will also allow scientists to further study the history of genetic
diversity and ancestral population structure of macaques, particularly
Chinese and Indian rhesus macaques. While these two groups look the
same, they are known to be genetically different. A result of this
disparity is that the two populations show a different susceptibility to
SIV. One of the many possible benefits that may arise because of the
results of this study is the potential for researchers to gain a better
understanding of HIV/AIDS in humans.

For more information on the International Rhesus Macaque Genome
Sequencing and Analysis Consortium or mobile DNA, please contact Mark
Batzer at 225-578-7102 or

For information about LSU's supercomputing facilities or CCT's work with
the consortium, please contact Kristen Meyer Sunde, manager of public
relations for CCT, at 225-578-3469 or

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Macaque genome sequenced
SOURCE: Healthday News, USA
AUTHOR: Steven Reinberg
DATE:   12.04.2007

Macaque genome sequenced

The feat will provide more understanding of human genetics and primate

THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have sequenced the
genome of the rhesus macaque, providing more precise data on how humans
are genetically different from primates.

Sequencing the macaque genome not only benefits research in human health
but expands the understanding of primate evolution. More than 170
scientists from 35 institutions worked on the macaque genome project,
and they published their findings in several articles in the April 13
issue of Science, a special edition devoted to the discovery.

"The importance of doing the sequencing is, first, it enhances our study
of evolution and what has made us different from primates," said lead
researcher Richard A. Gibbs, director of the Medicine Human Genome
Sequencing Center at Baylor College in Houston.

Although apes are genetically close to humans, that small percent of
difference really makes all the difference, Gibbs said.

Gibbs noted that the chimpanzee genome has already been sequenced. "Like
the macaque, there is a small percentage of error. The chimp is so close
to the human that those errors make it very hard to see what is exactly
the same and what is different from humans," he said. "The macaque is
further away from humans, so it makes it a better mirror to look into."

The human genome was first sequenced in 2001. That feat was followed by
the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome in 2005, allowing scientists to
see which genes humans shared with chimps, from which humans diverged
some 6 million years ago. The macaque is an older relative; it diverged
25 million years ago.

Macaque genes are about 97.5 percent similar to those of chimps and
humans. Chimps and humans have 99 percent of the same gene sequences.

In addition, sequencing the macaque is important for biomedical
research, where the macaque has been used extensively, Gibbs said.

"This will lead to more careful and thoughtful use of the macaque," he
said. "For example, not much is known about the immune system of the
macaque, but it is used in immunology research. With the gene sequence,
we can see how they are different from humans."

Tests that are specific to macaques will lead to better understanding of
human disease. Researchers have used human genome data for DNA testing,
but macaque DNA chips are being developed that are more sensitive and
accurate, Gibbs said.

Moreover, sequencing the macaque genome will show more about the animal
itself, Gibbs said. There are about 200 genes that changed during
evolution, making them candidates for determining the differences among
primates, he noted.

One expert agreed that sequencing the macaque will help in understanding
the evolutionary differences between apes and humans.

"When we looked at the chimpanzees, we saw difference between humans,
but we did not know in which lineage a particular difference had
occurred," said Tarjei Mikkelsen, who was a lead researcher in
sequencing the chimpanzee genome and is on the faculty of the Broad
Institute. "Now that we have another group, we can differentiate between
changes that occur in the human lineage and changes that occur in the
primate lineage."

Mikkelsen also thinks that having the macaque genome is important in
seeing how humans differ from these primate relatives. "It's difficult
to know what makes humans special having just the human genome and one
primate genome -- you don't really know what's special about the human
genome," he said. "The more primates you can compare yourself to, the
more human-specific features you can find."

Mikkelsen also thinks that having the macaque genome will be an
important resource for biomedical research.

More information
For more information on the human genome, visit the Human Genome Project.
SOURCES: Richard A. Gibbs, Ph.D., director, Baylor College of Medicine
Human Genome Sequencing Center, Houston; Tarjei Mikkelsen, faculty,
Broad Institute, Cambridge, Mass.; April 13, 2007, Science

-------------------- archived at --------------------


the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer