LSU professors monkey around with the Rhesus Macaque genome

BATON ROUGE -- 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 Batzers 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 ca

Contact: Mark Batzer
Louisiana State University

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