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Archive - Sep 1, 2011

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First Lizard Genome Sequenced

The green anole lizard is an agile and active creature, and so are elements of its genome. This genomic agility and other new clues have emerged from the full sequencing of the lizard's genome and may offer insights into how the genomes of humans, mammals, and their reptilian counterparts have evolved since mammals and reptiles parted ways 320 million years ago. The researchers who completed this sequencing project reported their findings August 31, 2011, online in the journal Nature. The green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) – a native of the Southeastern United States – is the first non-bird species of reptile to have its genome sequenced and assembled. Broad Institute researchers have assembled and analyzed more than 20 mammalian genomes – including those of some of our closest relatives – but the genetic landscape of reptiles remains relatively unexplored. "Sometimes you need to be at a certain distance in order to learn about how the human genome evolved," said Dr. Jessica Alföldi, co-first author of the paper and a research scientist in the vertebrate genome biology group at the Broad Institute. "You have to look out further than you were looking previously." Lizards are more closely related to birds – which are also reptiles – than to any of the other organisms whose genomes have been sequenced in full. Like mammals, birds and lizards are amniotes, meaning that they are not restricted to laying eggs in water. "People have been sequencing animals from different parts of the vertebrate tree, but lizards had not been previously sampled," said Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, scientific director of vertebrate genome biology at the Broad and senior author of the Nature paper.