Zebrafish genome bears noteworthy resemblance to human genome

Zebrafish genome bears noteworthy resemblance to human genome

In an article entitled, “The zebrafish reference genome sequence and its relationship to the human genome,” published in April 17, 2013, issue of Nature(doi:10.1038/nature12111), the lead author Kerstin Howe with one hundred and seventy two other associates from fifteen research groups sequenced the zebra fish reference genome and demonstrated that 70 per cent of protein-coding human genes are related to genes found in the zebrafish and that 84 per cent of genes known to be associated with human disease have a zebrafish counterpart. Their study highlights the importance of zebrafish as a model organism for human disease research. Zebrafish have been used successfully to understand the biological activity of genes orthologous to human disease-related genes in greater detail. To investigate the number of potential disease-related genes, they compared the list of human genes possessing at least one zebrafish orthologue with the 3,176 genes bearing morbidity descriptions that are listed in the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database. Of these morbid genes, 2,601 (82%) can be related to at least one zebrafish orthologue. A similar comparison identified at least one zebrafish orthologue for 3,075 (76%) of the 4,023 human genes implicated in Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). Moreover, the zebrafish genome has some unique features, not seen in other vertebrates. They have the highest repeat content in their genome sequences so far reported in any vertebrate species: almost twice as much as seen in their closest relative, the common carp. Also unique to the zebrafish, the team identified chromosomal regions that influence sex determination. In addition, the zebrafish genome contains few pseudogenes (genes thought to have lost their function through evolution) compared to the human genome. The team identified 154 pseudogenes in the zebrafish genome, a fraction of the 13,000 or so pseudogenes found in the human genome. Quite possibly, the zebra fish genome sequence will lead to a new concept of biology. It is now obvious that the full impact of the human genome sequence was not apparent upon its release. For example, no one could have predicted the discovery of thousands of RNA molecules that do not encode proteins but which are now known to have key regulatory functions, or foreseen the progress in using genome sequences to reconstruct the history of human evolution. The zebrafish genome sequence and mutant collection might just be the first step on another avenue of discovery. It may help to uncover the biological processes responsible for common and rare disease and opens up exciting new avenues for disease screening and drug development. [summarized by Samsad Razzaque – a graduate student in the Plant Biotech Lab, DU]

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