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New genomic study provides a glimpse of how whales could adapt to ocean
Date:11/24/2013

November 24, 2013, Shenzhen, China - In a paper published in Nature Genetics, researchers from Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, Korea Genome Research Foundation, BGI, and other institutes presented the first high-depth minke whale genome and their new findings on how whales successfully adapted to ocean environment. The data yielded in this study will contribute to future studies of marine mammal diseases, conservation and evolution.

Whales roam throughout all of the world's oceans, living in the water but breathing air like humans. At the top of the food chain, whales are vital to the health of the marine environment, whereas 7 out of the 13 great whale species are endangered or vulnerable. The minke whale is the most abundant baleen whale. Its wide distribution makes it an ideal candidate for whole reference genome sequencing.

In this study, researchers conducted de novo sequencing on a minke whale with 128x average depth of coverage, and re-sequenced three minke whales, a fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), a bottlenose dolphin, and a finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides). The yielded data may help to improve scientists' understanding of the evolutionary changes adapted to ocean environment from whole genome level.

The adaptation of whale to ocean life was notably marked by resistance to physiological stresses caused by a lack of oxygen, increased reactive oxygen species, and high salt level. In this study, researchers investigated a number of whale-specific genes that were strongly associated with stress resistance, such as the peroxiredoxin (PRDX) family, O-linked N-acetylglucosaminylation (O-GlcNAcylation). The results revealed that the gene families associated with stress-responsive proteins and anaerobic metabolism were expanded.

Perhaps the most dramatic environmental adaptation for a whale is deep diving, which can induce hypoxia. Under the hypoxic conditions, the body mig
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Contact: Jia Liu
liujia@genomics.cn
BGI Shenzhen
Source:Eurekalert

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