Friday, February 28, 2003

STUDYING PRIMATE GENES

Scientists Find That Apes and Monkeys Provide Needed Help in Understanding Human Genome

BERKELEY, Calif., Feb 26, 2003 (ASCRIBE NEWS via COMTEX) -- Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek, Calif., and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a powerful new technique for deciphering biological information encoded in the human genome.

Called "phylogenetic shadowing," this technique enables scientists to make meaningful comparisons between DNA sequences in the human genome and sequences in the genomes of apes, monkeys, and other nonhuman primates. With phylogenetic shadowing, scientists can now study biological traits that are unique to members of the primate family....

..."There is only about a five percent difference between the human and the baboon genomes. When you run comparisons between the two, all of the sequences look just about the same. We can't distinguish function from nonfunctional sequences."

Rubin and his colleagues overcame this lack of distinction by comparing segments of the human genome to segments of not one but anywhere from five to 15 different genomes of nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas, orangutans, baboons, and Old World and New World monkeys. By sequencing specific segments within each of the genomes of the different primates being analyzed, the researchers found enough small differences from genome to genome in the nonhuman primates that could be combined to create a phylogenetic "shadow" which could then be compared to the human genome....