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Methods. 2009 Sep;49(1):5-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2009.05.015. Epub 2009 Jun 7.

Acquisition and processing of nonhuman primate samples for genetic and phylogenetic analyses.

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  • 1Division of Microbiology, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Southborough, MA 01772, USA.


Primates have long been a favorite subject of evolutionary biologists, and in recent decades, have come to play an increasingly important role in biomedical research, including comparative genetics and phylogenetics. The growing list of annotated genome databases from nonhuman primate species is expected to aid in these endeavors, allowing many analyses to be performed partially or even entirely in silico. However, whole genome sequence data are typically derived from only one, or at best a few, individuals. As a consequence, information in the databases does not capture variation within species or populations, nor can the sequence of one individual be taken as representative across all loci. Furthermore, the vast majority of primate species have not been sequenced, and only a small percentage of species are currently slated for whole genome sequencing efforts. Finally, for many species data on patterns and levels of RNA expression will be lacking. Thus, there will continue to be a demand for samples from nonhuman primates as raw material for genetic and phylogenetic analyses. Gathering such samples can be complicated, with many legal and practical barriers to obtaining samples in the field or transporting samples between research centers and across borders. Here, we provide basic but critical advice for those initiating studies requiring genetic material from nonhuman primates, including some guidance on how to locate and obtain samples, brief overviews of common protocols for handling and processing samples, and a table of useful links for locating resources related to the acquisition of samples. We also advocate for the creation of curated banks of nonhuman primate samples, particularly renewable sources of genetic material such as immortalized cell lines or fibroblasts, to reduce the need for repeated or redundant sampling from living animals.

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