Platypus genome published

The platypus joins the ranks of linkurl:fruit flies,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53844/ linkurl:rice,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/20020404/04/ linkurl:humans,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23065/ and other subjects of intense genetic study with the linkurl:publication;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7192/full/nature06936.html of its genome sequence today (May 7) in __Nature__. Researchers say that exploring the genome of the platypus, which sits at a u

By | May 7, 2008

The platypus joins the ranks of linkurl:fruit flies,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/home/53844/ linkurl:rice,;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/20020404/04/ linkurl:humans,;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23065/ and other subjects of intense genetic study with the linkurl:publication;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v453/n7192/full/nature06936.html of its genome sequence today (May 7) in __Nature__. Researchers say that exploring the genome of the platypus, which sits at a unique evolutionary intersection between reptiles and mammals, may yield novel insights into the process of evolution and the physiological repercussions of gaining or losing genes. "The platypus genome is a wonderful mixture of reptilian and mammalian features," said linkurl:Wesley Warren,;http://genome.wustl.edu/Bio/WarrenBIO.cgi a Washington University geneticist who was the first author on the paper. "It's just amazing that it has survived and retained all these features." Among the surprises that Warren and his collaborators turned up among the estimated 2.3 billion nitrogenous base pairs that make up the platypus genome were that platypus venom, which males harbor in hind-leg spurs, is made up of proteins that result from duplications of defensin-like, C-type natriuretic peptide, and linkurl:nerve growth factor;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14146/ genes. These are the same gene families in which duplications make toxins in many venomous reptiles. "That's a form on convergent evolution," Warren said. "The platypus has clearly retained ancestral reptilian features." But the researchers also found traces of the platypus' mammalian ancestry in its 52 chromosomes and estimated 18,527 protein-coding genes. For example, the platypus, which belongs to the monotreme branch of the mammalian lineage, shares many of the genes that code for chemoreceptive proteins in other mammals. Being semi-aquatic, however, the platypus has evolved some olfactory receptor genes, in the V1R family, that seem to endow it with the ability to sense water-soluble, non-volatile chemicals as is forages underwater. Also, casein genes, which code for milk proteins, are tightly clustered in the platypus genome, as they are in other mammals. Warren said this early analysis is "just a start," noting that the platypus genome sequence is available on several websites including his own lab's linkurl:site,;http://genome.wustl.edu/genome.cgi?GENOME=Ornithorhynchus%20anatinus on the National Center for Biotechnology Information's linkurl:website,;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=genome&cmd=search&term=platypus%20genome and on a University of California, Santa Cruz linkurl:website.;http://genome.ucsc.edu/cgi-bin/hgGateway?clade=other&org=Platypus "I hope that more people will go back to those gene sets and look at them in more detail," Warren said. "The platypus genome may have some unique functions that may help us understand what is going on with human biology." The publication of the platypus genome is accompanied by five companion papers in __Genome Research__ today that explore in greater detail some of the functions of platypus genes mentioned in the Nature manuscript. These papers explore the role of relaxin genes in the platypus' testicular tissue or mammary gland development, and the function of the many RNAs that are unique to monotremes.
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