Humans, chimps separated only by few genes

February 16th, 2009 - 3:09 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 16 (IANS) Surprisingly, humans and chimps, who share much of the similarities and yet look so different, are separated only by a few genes.

There may be greater genetic variation between different yeasts of the same species than between humans and chimpanzees.

The DNA of individual yeast organisms can vary by up to four percent, compared to one percent between the DNA of humans and chimpanzees.

This is one of the findings of a study from the University of Gothenburg (U-G), which heralds a new era in evolutionary genetics research — the mapping of an individual’s DNA.

The mapping of the entire yeast genome in 1996 marked the beginning of a revolution in biological and medical research. The human genome was mapped in 2001, and by now the number of characterised species is approaching 1,000, most of which are bacteria.

The next advance is only a few years away - mapping the genetic evolution of individual multicellular animals, including humans.

“We shall then be able to identify the genetic causes of human disease and to understand how the process of evolution works when species are being formed,” said Anders Blomberg, cell and molecular biology professor at the U-G.

Gothenburg researchers, collaborating with Sanger Institute in Cambridge and University of Nottingham, have succeeded in sequencing the DNA and characterising the genome properties (i.e. phenotypes) of 70 different individual organisms from two different species of yeast - the common brewer’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its evolutionary cousin Saccharomyces paradoxus, said an U-G release.

“As humans transported wine and beer yeasts around the world, different yeasts have mated and recombined, so that the strains of today carry gene variants from various parts of the world. This mosaic pattern is not at all visible in our studies of another yeast that has not been exploited by humans,” said Blomberg.

These findings are scheduled for publication in Nature.

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