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Genomic sequencing of marine sponge published; revealed early genetic complexity and roots of cancer
Date:8/4/2010

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) This week's publication of the complete genomic sequence of a living marine sponge reveals genes dating back hundreds of millions of years a result far exceeding the expectations of the scientific world.

Four scientists from UC Santa Barbara contributed to the sequencing of the genome of a Great Barrier Reef marine sponge, from a 650 million-year-old group of organisms a project that indicates there were astonishingly rich genetic resources available at the dawn of the animal kingdom. The sequencing also reveals some basic information about cancer. The findings are published in the August 5th issue of the scientific journal Nature.

"This is a milestone sequence," said Kenneth S. Kosik, co-director of UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute (NRI) and Harriman Chair in Neuroscience Research. "This sponge is the most basal animal for which we have a genome."

A genome represents all biological information required to create and maintain an organism. DNA is the language of the genome, and DNA is separated into genes that give directions for the creation of discrete parts of any organism. The entire genome of the sponge Amphimedon queenslandica is available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=genomeprj&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=Overview&list_uids=43557.

Kosik explained that the evolutionary origin of animals was marked by the ability of individual cells to assume specialized properties and work together for the greater good of the entire organism. "The sponge represents a window on this ancient and momentous event," he said. "Curiously, the cells of a sponge bear little resemblance to cells found in the rest of the animal kingdom. For example, sponges lack neurons; however, the sponge genome reveals the presence of many genes found in neurons." (The Kosik and Oakley research
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.gallessich@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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