Genome sequencing project for rhesus macaque, led by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Missouri, and the University of Washington, has created a new framework for the study of this primate, according to the research published in the journal Science.
"This is a major step forward in the amount of information we have about genetic variation in the rhesus macaque," said Dr. Jeffrey Rogers, associate professor at the Human Genome Sequencing Center and Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor and one of the corresponding authors of the study.
"We have actually identified thousands of new mutations in the population of research animals. Now colleagues all over the country who are investigating various aspects of health and disease using rhesus macaques can begin to make use of that information."
"When we coupled this higher quality genome reference with a broader sequencing of expressed genes, our team discovered gene structures unique to macaque as well as specific repeat sequences undergoing deletions that suggest evolutionary competition to suppress these elements from expanding continues today," said Warren, professor at the University of Missouri's Bond Life Sciences Center.
Researchers sequenced the genomes of 853 rhesus macaque from research institutions around the country and compared them to the new reference genome. The genome analysis showed that rhesus macaque has more genetic variants per individual than humans.
Researchers found several damaging mutations in genes known to cause genetic disorders in humans, including autism, inherited blindness, and several others.
"We can find naturally occurring models of genetic disorders by surveying the rhesus macaque population," Rogers said. "We will find animals that naturally carry interesting and useful genetic mutations that can help us understand genetic variation and susceptibility to disease in humans.
Rhesus macaques are also widely studied by primatologists and evolutionary biologists, so this new reference genome will also provide new insight into the evolution of the nonhuman primate and human genomes."