Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Rhesus Macaque Genome Helps Illuminate What Makes Us Human

The rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta).
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 16, 2007
Researchers have sequenced the genome of the relatively ancient rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), providing perspective into how humans are genetically different from our primate relatives. In addition to benefiting human health research in areas as diverse as HIV and aging, the genome enhances understanding of primate evolution. The macaque genome research appears in the 13 April issue of Science published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

"The rhesus macaque genome helps illuminate what makes humans different from other apes," said Richard A. Gibbs, director of the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center and the project leader of the Rhesus Macaque Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium. "It allows us to learn what has been added or deleted in primate evolution from the rhesus macaque to the chimpanzee to the human."

The Rhesus Macaque Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, an international team of more than 170 scientists from 35 institutions, describes their results in a special issue of Science devoted to the macaque genome. The issue consists of a primary Research Article that reports the key findings and four supplementary Reports.

"We want to know what makes us human," Gibbs explained. The human genome, sequenced in 2001 began providing many clues, but researchers knew they would benefit by having other genomes for comparison. In 2005, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) genome allowed scientists to investigate which genes humans shared with this relative, from whom we diverged 6 million years ago.

The macaque is a more ancient relative. This old world monkey diverged from our lineage 25 million years ago. "Because the macaque is further away from us in evolution than the chimp, it provides good contrast when the three genomes are compared," he added. In evolution research, 25 million years is close, and comparing the three genomes can provide new insights not possible before regarding when and where changes occurred during evolution.

Researchers expect that the rhesus macaque genome sequence will enhance research in neuroscience, behavioral biology, reproductive physiology, endocrinology and cardiovascular studies. The macaque is considered the best animal model to study AIDS and is used to study other human infectious disease and for vaccine research.

Because the rhesus macaque is genetically and physiologically similar to humans and abundant, it is frequently used in biomedical research. The monkey has saved countless lives just in the role it has played in determining the Rh factor and polio vaccine, but it has also been key to research into neurological and behavioral disorders.

The new findings described in the Science articles include:

Rhesus macaque genes are about 97.5 percent similar to those of chimps and humans. Chimps and humans have 99 percent of their gene sequences in common.

Researchers identified about 200 genes that show evidence of positive selection during evolution, making them potential candidates for determining the differences among primate species. These genes are involved in hair formation, immune response, membrane proteins and sperm-egg fusion.

Even though macaques are used in human disease research, scientists were surprised to find some instances where the normal form of the macaque protein looks like the diseased human protein. One example occurs in phenylketonuria (PKU) that can lead to brain damage and mental retardation in humans because of a defect in an important enzyme.

Macaque-specific laboratory tests will lead to better understanding of human disease. Researchers previously used human genome data for DNA testing, but macaque-specific DNA chips are being developed that are much more sensitive and accurate.

The DNA for the genome sequencing was contributed by a female rhesus macaque at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio, Texas. The sequencing was performed at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston, Texas, the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. and the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md.

Email This Article

Related Links
American Association for the Advancement of Science
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

Why The Rich Get Richer
Davis CA (SPX) Apr 09, 2007
A new theory shows how wealth, in different forms, can stick to some but not to others. The findings have implications ranging from the design of the Internet to economics.

  • DigitalGlobe And GeoEye Partner With The USGS In Support Of International Charter
  • Tsunami Emergency In Solomons Declared Over
  • Philippine Survivors Left Feeling Forgotten
  • Aid Reaches All Of Tsunami-Devasted Areas In Solomons

  • Want To Monitor Climate Change Pick Up A Penguin
  • Trans Atlantic Rift Not That Great On Global Warming
  • US Pollution Cop Defends Bush Greenhouse Gas Record
  • Environmentalists Hail US Supreme Court Ruling As Bush Says Issue Serious

  • US Uses Landsat Satellite Data To Fight Hunger And Poverty
  • NOAA And NASA Restore Climate Sensor To Upcoming NPP Satellite
  • High-Resolution Images Herald New Era In Earth Sciences
  • ISRO To Focus On Societal Projects

  • Energy Center Symposium To Pave The Road To A Hydrogen Economy
  • China To Rely More On Cleaner Energy Like Natural Gas By 2010
  • ConocoPhillips Establishes Biofuels Research Program At Iowa State
  • Tech Company Involved In Breakthrough Research

  • Total Hepatitis C Cure Possible
  • HIV Market To Top 10 Billion Dollars
  • UN Says Bird Flu Still A Threat
  • Has Russia Declared War On Migratory Birds

  • Protein Fragments Sequenced In 68 Million-Year-Old Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Marine Scientists Monitor Longest Mammal Migration
  • Why Small Dogs Are Small
  • Trends In Bird Observations Reveal Changing Fortunes For Different Species

  • Chinese Economy Reaching Limits
  • Plastic That Degrades In Seawater A Boon For Cruise Industry
  • DHS Rolls Out New Chemical Plant Regulations
  • Lenovo Tops Eco-Friendly Rating For Computers

  • Rhesus Macaque Genome Helps Illuminate What Makes Us Human
  • Why The Rich Get Richer
  • It's Never Too Late To Interrupt The Aging Process
  • The Mother Of All Tooth Decay

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement