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

lar machinery seen in other animals that enable small RNAs to modulate gene expression and defend the genome -- a process called RNA interference (RNAi). That the RNAi mechanism is conserved by evolution in the monotremes is hardly surprising, given its great power to enable individual organisms, and thereby the species, to regulate their systems and protect their genetic material.

The CSHL team found certain small RNAs that were exclusive to the monotremes, reflecting their unique experience of evolution; and certain small RNAs that were shared by some other animals, but not others -- for instance, four microRNAs (miRNAs) previously seen in chickens but not in other mammals. Here again, a deeply buried story about evolution comes to light: these particular miRNAs presumably were involved in biological functions that have either become redundant or obsolete in some branches of mammalian evolution, Dr. Hannon said.

In all, the team identified 180 novel miRNAs that appear to be unique in the platypus and monotremes, most notably a large cluster of miRNAs on platypus chromosome X1, expressed almost exclusively in the testis. The cluster appears to be evolving rapidly, which is characteristic of the mammalian trait of fast-evolving male reproductive machinery. Also of special interest was evidence that the platypus genome encodes three proteins of the so-called PIWI family, which is involved in the genesis of a newly discovered class of small RNAs called piwi-, or piRNAs. In platypus, in contrast to other mammals studied to date, the piRNA system appears to play an active role in germline defense, within the mature testis.

In sum, Dr. Hannon noted, the small RNA complement of the platypus has highlighted both unique and conserved roles for miRNAs and piRNAs in monotremes; at the same time, it has given us fascinating insight into the evolution of small RNA pathways in mammals.


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Contact: Jim Bono
bono@cshl.edu
516-367-8455
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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