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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Mar 1;102(9):3354-9. Epub 2005 Feb 17.

Comparative sequencing provides insights about the structure and conservation of marsupial and monotreme genomes.

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  • 1Genome Technology Branch and NISC, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Sequencing and comparative analyses of genomes from multiple vertebrates are providing insights about the genetic basis for biological diversity. To date, these efforts largely have focused on eutherian mammals, chicken, and fish. In this article, we describe the generation and study of genomic sequences from noneutherian mammals, a group of species occupying unusual phylogenetic positions. A large sequence data set (totaling >5 Mb) was generated for the same orthologous region in three marsupial (North American opossum, South American opossum, and Australian tammar wallaby) and one monotreme (platypus) genomes. These ancient mammalian genomes are characterized by unusual architectural features with respect to G + C and repeat content, as well as compression relative to human. Approximately 14% and 34% of the human sequence forms alignments with the orthologous sequence from platypus and the marsupials, respectively; these numbers are distinctly lower than that observed with nonprimate eutherian mammals (45-70%). The alignable sequences between human and each marsupial species are not completely overlapping (only 80% common to all three species) nor are the platypus-alignable sequences completely contained within the marsupial-alignable sequences. Phylogenetic analysis of synonymous coding positions reveals that platypus has a notably long branch length, with the human-platypus substitution rate being on average 55% greater than that seen with human-marsupial pairs. Finally, analyses of the major mammalian lineages reveal distinct patterns with respect to the common presence of evolutionarily conserved vertebrate sequences. Our results confirm that genomic sequence from noneutherian mammals can contribute uniquely to unraveling the functional and evolutionary histories of the mammalian genome.

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