Scientists complete sequencing Tibetan antelope genome

December 25th, 2009 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Xining (China), Dec 25 (IANS) Chinese scientists said Friday they have completed sequencing the genome of the Tibetan antelope which will hopefully explain the pathogenesis of chronic plateau sickness.
Tibetan antelopes, which live on China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, have been given the highest level of protection under the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1979, and listed among the most endangered species by the Chinese government since 1988.

They are considered to be ideal species for evolution studies, as they had lived on “the Roof of the World” for millions of years against the backdrop of various environmental extremes, such as extreme cold and low oxygen levels.

“By sequencing the Tibetan antelope genome, we have laid the scientific foundation to decode the pathogenesis of chronic plateau sickness,” said Yang Huanming, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a participant of the project.

“The studies can also contribute to improving the health of the plateau inhabitants, especially those of Tibetan ethnic group that has lived on the plateau generations after generations,” he said.

The project was jointly launched by the Qinghai University and the Beijing Genomics Institute’s Shenzhen branch in April this year.

In addition to Tibetan antelopes, scientists are working to sequence the genomes of penguins and polar bears as part of the project.

“Sequencing the Tibetan antelope genome also lays the genetic foundation for us to carry out plateau life sciences studies, but it is only the first step,” said Gerili, vice president of the Qinghai University and director of the International Society for Mountain Medicine.

“We will further identify the functors on the genome, decode all the genetic information, and explore the genetic basis of Tibetan antelopes’ ability to evolve and to adapt to harsh environment,” he said.

It is the world’s first genome sequencing project for endangered species which live on the plateaus, he added.

Chinese scientists have contributed to the genome sequencing of rice, silkworm, hen, pig and giant panda. In October 2007, they finished sequencing the first Han Chinese genome.

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