Monday, October 8, 2007

Which came first, the chicken genome or the egg genome?

Looks kinda like a chicken, right?

I thought so too. This is genomic duplication data from figure 2 from a Nature Genetics paper published online today.

The title of the press release is: "Which came first, the chicken genome or the egg genome?"

But the paper is really about a different "which came first" question facing scientists? and one that -- if answered fully -- will help to explain exactly how we modern humans came to be. And it will give us a whole lot of new insights on genomic disease as well. The human genome is full of duplicated chunks of DNA that have played important roles in evolution, and which are involved in disease. The new research provides tons of new data on which of the copies of thousands of DNA segmental duplications in the human genome are the originals and which are the copies.

“Identifying the original duplications is a prerequisite to understanding what makes the human genome unstable,” said Pavel Pevzner a UCSD computer science professor who modified an algorithmic genome assembly technique in order to deconstruct the mosaics of repeated stretches of DNA and identify the original sequences. “Maybe there is something special about the originals, some clue or insight into what causes this colonization of the human genome,” said Pevzner.

You can read the press release here. If you're a journalist and would like a PDF of the paper, send me an email at dbkane AT ucsd DOT edu

Below if the full figure 2 from the paper: This colorful image (figure 2 in the paper) illustrates the process of ancestral-state determination for one 750-kb duplication block on human chromosome 2p11. In this example, 15 of 16 ancestral loci were accurately predicted by the computational method.

Do you see the chicken? What shapes do you see?

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