DNA sequence of Rhesus macaque has evolutionary, medical implications

The completed DNA sequence of the rhesus macaque an Old World monkey has advanced understanding of primate evolution and will enhance medical research in neuroscience, behavioral biology, reproductive physiology, endocrinology, heart and blood vessel disease and immunodeficiency, said scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) Human Genome Sequencing Center who led the effort.

The generation of the sequence was a collaboration of the BCM group with the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., in cooperation with the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver.

Independent assemblies of the rhesus genome data were carried out at each of the three sequencing centers and these were later joined into a "melded assembly." The availability of the data was announced at the end of 2005.

The subsequent analysis, published in a special section of today's issue of the journal Science, was performed over a period of nine months and involved scientists from more than 35 Institutions. The total list of authors included more than 170 individuals.

The report compares the genome sequences of the human, chimpanzee and rhesus macaque in order to identify those changes that were important in shaping the biology of the three primate species over the past 25 million years.

The macaque genome differs by approximately seven percent from that of humans, while chimpanzees are just one to two percent different. The added divergence of the macaque makes it ideal for this kind of evolutionary study.

Project leader for the effort was author Dr. Richard Gibbs, director of the BCM Center. The sequence will also enhance the primates' value in understanding various systems of the human body.

"This sequence and its comparison to that of the human and chimpanzee enable us to look back at history

Contact: Ross Tomlin
Baylor College of Medicine

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