Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Corn snake genome sequenced for the first time

Date: November 24, 2015
Source: Université de Genève

Among the 5,000 existing species of mammals, more than 100 have their genome sequenced, whereas the genomes of only 9 species of reptiles (among 10,000 species) are available to the scientific community. This is the reason why a team at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Swit- zerland, has produced a large database including, among others, the newly-sequenced genome of the corn snake, a species increasingly used to understand the evolution of reptiles. Within the same laboratory, the researchers have discovered the exact mutation that causes albinism in that species, a result published in Scientific Reports.

Genomics allows to better investigate the evolution of the living world. Indeed, describing the function of each gene should enable to understand how the snake lost its limbs or how various skin colorations have evolved. Unfortunately, reptiles are poorly represented in genomic da- tabases. This is why Dr. Athanasia Tzika, researcher in the Department of genetics and evolution of the UNIGE Faculty of Sciences, has built a database including sequenced genomes from the major evolutionary lineages of reptiles: the Reptilian Transcriptomes Database 2.0. "Our aim was to produce ourselves a substantial portion of the missing data by sequencing all genes from several reptilian species. To reach this goal, we used tissues, such as the brain and the kidney, expressing the largest number of genes," says Athanasia Tzika. Multiple other teams also generated sequencing data but each one used different methods for data analysis, making difficult studies of the evolution of reptilian genomes. Hence, another part of Athanasia Tzika's work consisted into gathering these data and developing a bioinformatic approach allowing the pro- duction of a unified database, freely accessible and regularly updated. This tool will become useful for researchers all around the world working on the development and evolution of vertebrates in general and reptiles in particular.

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