Chimpanzee Genome Project - Draft Genome Sequence of The Common Chimpanzee

Draft Genome Sequence of The Common Chimpanzee

Analysis of the genome was published in Nature on September 1, 2005, in an article produced by the Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, a group of scientists which is supported in part by the National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health. The article marked the completion of the draft genome sequence. A database now exists containing the genetic differences between human and chimpanzee genes, with about thirty-five million single-nucleotide changes, five million insertion/deletion events, and various chromosomal rearrangements. Gene duplications account for most of the sequence differences between humans and chimps. Single-base-pair substitutions account for about half as much genetic change as does gene duplication.

Typical human and chimp homologs of proteins differ in only an average of two amino acids. About 30 percent of all human proteins are identical in sequence to the corresponding chimp protein. As mentioned above, gene duplications are a major source of differences between human and chimp genetic material, with about 2.7 percent of the genome now representing differences having been produced by gene duplications or deletions during approximately 6 million years since humans and chimps diverged from their common evolutionary ancestor. The comparable variation within human populations is 0.5 percent.

About 600 genes have been identified that may have been undergoing strong positive selection in the human and chimp lineages; many of these genes are involved in immune system defense against microbial disease (example: granulysin is protective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis,) or are targeted receptors of pathogenic microorganisms (example: Glycophorin C and Plasmodium falciparum). By comparing human and chimp genes to the genes of other mammals, it has been found that genes coding for transcription factors, such as forkhead-box P2 (FOXP2), have often evolved faster in the human relative to chimp; relatively small changes in these genes may account for the morphological differences between humans and chimps. A set of 348 transcription factor genes code for proteins with an average of about 50 percent more amino acid changes in the human lineage than in the chimp lineage.

Six human chromosomal regions were found that may have been under particularly strong and coordinated selection during the past 250,000 years. These regions contain at least one marker allele that seems unique to the human lineage while the entire chromosomal region shows lower than normal genetic variation. This pattern suggests that one or a few strongly selected genes in the chromosome region may have been preventing the random accumulation of neutral changes in other nearby genes. One such region on chromosome 7 contains the FOXP2 gene (mentioned above) and this region also includes the Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene, which is important for ion transport in tissues such as the salt-secreting epithelium of sweat glands. Human mutations in the CFTR gene might be selected for as a way to survive cholera.

Another such region on chromosome 4 may contain elements regulating the expression of a nearby protocadherin gene that may be important for brain development and function. Although changes in expression of genes that are expressed in the brain tend to be less than for other organs (such as liver) on average, gene expression changes in the brain have been more dramatic in the human lineage than in the chimp lineage. This is consistent with the dramatic divergence of the unique pattern of human brain development seen in the human lineage compared to the ancestral great ape pattern. The protocadherin-beta gene cluster on chromosome 5 also shows evidence of possible positive selection.

Results from the human and chimp genome analyses should help in understanding some human diseases. Humans appear to have lost a functional caspase-12 gene, which in other primates codes for an enzyme that may protect against Alzheimer's disease.

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