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Hum Mol Genet. 2008 Apr 15;17(8):1127-36. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddn002. Epub 2008 Jan 7.

Analysis of copy number variation in the rhesus macaque genome identifies candidate loci for evolutionary and human disease studies.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 221 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Copy number variants (CNVs) are heritable gains and losses of genomic DNA in normal individuals. While copy number variation is widely studied in humans, our knowledge of CNVs in other mammalian species is more limited. We have designed a custom array-based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) platform with 385 000 oligonucleotide probes based on the reference genome sequence of the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), the most widely studied non-human primate in biomedical research. We used this platform to identify 123 CNVs among 10 unrelated macaque individuals, with 24% of the CNVs observed in multiple individuals. We found that segmental duplications were significantly enriched at macaque CNV loci. We also observed significant overlap between rhesus macaque and human CNVs, suggesting that certain genomic regions are prone to recurrent CNV formation and instability, even across a total of approximately 50 million years of primate evolution ( approximately 25 million years in each lineage). Furthermore, for eight of the CNVs that were observed in both humans and macaques, previous human studies have reported a relationship between copy number and gene expression or disease susceptibility. Therefore, the rhesus macaque offers an intriguing, non-human primate outbred model organism with which hypotheses concerning the specific functions of phenotypically relevant human CNVs can be tested.

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