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CSHL scientists are part of consortium that sequences platypus genome
Date:5/8/2008

ds in an inner womb prior to giving birth. The platypus and other monotremes, in sharp contrast, retain the reptilian mode of gestation, being egg-layers; yet like other mammals the female platypus feeds her newborn with milk, albeit milk thats secreted through broad patches of skin rather than teats.

The fact that monotremes lactate yet lay eggs is only one instance of the fascinating combination they represent of reptilian and mammalian characteristics, said Dr. Hannon. Another legacy of the platypuss reptilian heritage is the fact that males of the species are equipped with spikes on their hind legs through which they can deliver venom. The consortium found that reptile and platypus venom proteins have been co-opted from the same gene families. The scientists also deduced from genomic data that the platypus, despite being an egg-layer, shares milk protein genes with all other mammals.

Being a genome scientist, Dr. Hannon was interested to observe that the complement of chromosomes possessed by the platypus -- its karyotype -- is most unusual for a mammal. In all there are 52 chromosomes, many of them very small, much like reptilian microchromosomes. Like reptiles, they also have multiple sex chromosomes, he noted.

CSHL study shows small-RNA roles are conserved in platypus

In a related paper, published online before print on May 7 in Genome Research, Dr. Hannon and Elizabeth Murchison, Ph.D., a postdoc in his lab originally from Tasmania, offer other intriguing evolutionary observations about the platypus, based on examination of a class of molecules called small RNAs. Over the last decade Dr. Hannon has pioneered the study of small RNAs, helping to reveal their role in regulating gene expression and in protecting the genome from parasitic invaders.

Hannon and Murchison sequenced six platypus and echidna tissue samples and found, broadly, the presence of the same classes of small RNAs and the intracellu
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Contact: Jim Bono
bono@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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