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Duck-billed platypus genome sequence published
Date:5/9/2008

s a tightly clustered set of genes that produce the casein proteins that make up milk.

A good sense of smell is something mammals have in common. Compared to most mammals, chicken and lizard have a relatively poor complement of odorant receptor genes responsible for their ability to detect smells. Interestingly, platypus has about half as many odor receptors as do the mouse and other mammals. However, the researchers also found that the platypus genome has experienced an expansion in the genes that code for a particular type of odor receptor, called a vomeronasal receptor. Researchers think the expansion of this particular set of genes may be involved in the ability of the platypus to detect odors during underwater foraging.

Researchers also found that genes related to the immune system of the platypus are very similar to those of other mammals, with a few key differences. For example, the platypus genome contains expansions in the gene family that codes for a microbe-fighting peptide called cathelicidin. Primates and rodents have only a single copy of the cathelicidin gene. Scientists think that the expansion of this gene family in platypus may be involved in boosting the immune system of their very immature offspring, which hatch very developmentally immature. Scientists postulate that the microbe-fighting peptide may have been less critical for other mammals, whose offspring spend relatively long periods of time developing within the womb and are born at a more advanced stage of development.

Scientists were also eager to find out how venom production became a part of the platypus genome. When researchers began analyzing the genetic sequences responsible for venom production in the male platypus, they made a surprising finding. They discovered that venom produced by the male platypus arose from duplications in certain genes over the course of evolutionary time which had been passed on from ancestral reptile genomes. The reptilian li
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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