Second genome sequencing of gorilla reveals level of similarity with us

Submitted by Jeanne Rife on Sat, 04/02/2016 - 14:32

Researchers from Washington University have for the second time looked into the genome of gorilla in order to sequence them. The genome was taken from the blood samples of gorilla named Sue, which formerly lived in the Lincoln Park Zoo. The scientists were trying to find similarity between gorilla and human beings and where the former species could be put best in evolutionary tree, which also includes humans.

Like chimpanzees and bonobos, gorilla too is our one of the closest species. The latest genome sequences put to it even closer to us as there only exist 1.6% the difference in genes of both of our species. Chimps and bonobos diverge from humans only by 1.2%, while the genes of an individual human differ from one another by around 0.1%. Their closeness with our genes makes gorilla ideal for studying.

More insight into their genome could help us answerers many questions related to the physical and psychological development in humans as well as development of language. “The differences between species may aid researchers in identifying regions of the human genome that are associated with higher cognition, complex language, behavior and neurological diseases. Having complete and accurate reference genomes to compare allows researchers to uncover these differences”, said study author Christopher Hill of the University of Washington told Reuters.

Last year, researchers at Duke University identified a gene regulator by tracking differences between human and chimpanzee genomes in areas related to brain development. The gene regulator tells other genes how and when to present themselves strongly and this is what makes human brains grow big unlike other species.

Western lowland gorillas live in West Africa, a majority of them in the Republic of Congo. The first version of the species’ genome was published four years ago and has served as a useful tool for comparative analysis.

In a report published by the Geek Wire, "A team led by University of Washington researchers has taken a second turn at sequencing the gorilla genome, putting together puzzle pieces that didn't match up the first time around. The results are likely to bring about revisions in the evolutionary tale of the western lowland gorilla, and where it fits in the primate family tree that includes us humans."

"I believe there is far more genetic variation than we had previously thought. The first step is finding it," UW geneticist Evan Eichler, the senior author of a research paper on the project published by the journal Science, said in a news release.

"The differences between species may aid researchers in identifying regions of the human genome that are associated with cognition, behavior and neurological diseases," Hill said. "Having complete and accurate reference genomes to compare allows researchers to uncover these differences."

According to a report in Washington Post by Rachel Feltman, "A gorilla named Sue, formerly of the Lincoln Park Zoo, is showing scientists just how similar her species is to our own. In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers presented a new, more complete genome sequence for the animal based on her blood sample."

Gorillas are some of our closest relatives, edged out only by chimpanzees and bonobos. This latest genome sequence confirms that just 1.6 percent of their genes diverge from our own. For reference, chimps and bonobos tie for
1.2 percent divergence, and after gorillas there's a sharp drop-off to 3.1 percent in orangutans - great apes with Asian instead of African origins. The genomes of individual humans differ from one another by around 0.1 percent.

"A new effort to sequence the gorilla genome has filled in many of the gaps from the first attempt to map the primate's DNA while revealing that they may be more closely related to humans than previously believed, according to research published Friday in the journal Science," according to a news report published by RedOrbit.

Among the area of genetic divergence are the immune and reproductive systems, the areas that control sensory perception, those governing the production of the protein keratin (which is used by the body to build hair, skin and fingernails) and those that regulate insulin. Their research has also resulted in the discovery of thousands of new protein and peptide-encoding segments.