Researchers compare human genome sequence for clues to evolution

Researchers compare human genome sequence for clues to evolution

February 27, 2004

February 26, 2004

An ASU researcher is part of a group of scientists reporting the first large-scale comparison of the human genome to 12 other vertebrates. The work is an important step in understanding how vertebrate species are genetically similar or different from one another, and provides a glimpse into the evolutionary past of humans.

For example, the work shows that humans are more closely related to rodents than to dogs or cats.

The team, which includes Jeff Touchman - an assistant professor of biology and director of the sequencing facility at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix - published its findings in the journal Nature.

The report, "Comparative analyses of multi-species sequences from targeted genomic regions," details the comparison of one targeted region of the human genome (a segment of the human chromosome 7, which includes the gene mutated in cystic fibrosis) to the same region of other vertebrates ranging from chimpanzees to zebrafish. Touchman directed the sequencing effort of this work while he was at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda , Md.

"This is a significant genomic achievement," Touchman said. "We can learn a lot about the human genome by comparing it to the genomes of other species."

The team, which included 71 researchers from 10 institutions, made the comparisons of the human genome to that of the chimpanzee, baboon, cat, dog, cow, pig, rat, mouse, chicken, two species of puffer fish and zebrafish.

Touchman said the work is both a technical achievement in the amount of the genome sequenced (1.8 million base pairs in each of the 12 species), as well as for what will be learned by comparing these genome sequences together. It could provide clues as to how each vertebrate evolved.


Written by: Joe Caspermeyer