Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Elephant Shark Genome Provides New Insights into Bone Formation in Humans

Published: Thursday, January 09, 2014
Last Updated: Thursday, January 09, 2014
Bookmark and Share
A*STAR-led international consortium completely decodes the first shark-family member genome.

Scientists at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) led an international team of researchers that sequenced and analyzed the genome of the elephant shark.

A comparison of the elephant shark genome with human and other vertebrate genomes revealed why the skeleton of sharks consists entirely of cartilage instead of bones.

The findings carry potential implications for human bone disease treatment. The analysis also sheds new light on the origin of the adaptive immune system. The findings of this study are published in the 9 January, 2014 issue of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

The collaboration with 12 international institutions was headed by IMCB's Prof Byrappa Venkatesh, who is also a chairperson of the "Genome10K" Project. The project was largely funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, the world's foremost centre for the support of biomedical research.

Analysis of the elephant shark genome

Elephant shark is a member of cartilaginous fishes, which are the oldest living group of jawed vertebrates that diverged from bony vertebrates about 450 million years ago. Cartilaginous fishes include sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras. Unlike humans and other bony vertebrates, cartilaginous fishes are unable to replace cartilage with bone. Among over 1,200 species of cartilaginous fishes, the elephant shark was sequenced due to its compact genome size. Analysis of the elephant shark genome identified a family of genes absent in elephant shark but present in all bony vertebrates.

A significant reduction in bone formation was observed when a member of this gene family was knocked out in zebrafish, thereby indicating the importance of this gene family in bone formation. The finding has important implications towards our understanding of bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis and hence the development of effective therapeutic strategies for them.

An unexpected finding was that elephant shark appears to lack special types of immune cells previously considered essential for defence against viral/bacterial infections and preventing autoimmune reactions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite this seemingly primitive organization of the immune system, sharks exhibit robust immune defences and are long-lived. By challenging long-held notions, this discovery has opened up a new avenue towards the development of nonintuitive strategies to shape the immune functions of humans.

The study also found that the elephant shark genome is the slowest evolving among all vertebrates, including the coelacanth, popularly known as a "living fossil", whose genes were recently shown to be evolving slower than those of other bony vertebrates. Furthermore, large blocks of elephant shark and human chromosomes were found to be highly similar. The markedly slow evolution of the elephant shark genome and its similarity to the human genome, further underscores its importance as a reference genome for comparative genomic studies aimed at better understanding of the human genome.

Prof Byrappa Venkatesh, Research Director at IMCB, and lead author of the Nature paper added, "The slow evolving genome of the elephant shark is probably the best proxy for the ancestor of all jawed-vertebrates that became extinct a long time ago. It is a cornerstone for improving our understanding of the development and physiology of human and other vertebrates as illustrated by our analysis of the skeletal system and immune system genes."

Dr Wes Warren, senior author of the Nature paper commented, "Although cartilaginous vertebrates and bony vertebrates diverged about 450 million years ago, with the elephant shark genome in hand, we can now begin to identify key genetic adaptations in the evolutionary tree."

Prof Hong Wanjin, Executive Director of IMCB, said, "Over the years, IMCB has carried out several remarkable genomic projects and we are excited to showcase yet another milestone. Not only has our research team sequenced the first shark-family member genome, they have also uncovered many insights significant to the field of genomic and medical research through the genome analysis."

Prof Sir David Lane, Chief Scientist at A*STAR, said, "We are delighted that a Singapore laboratory conceived and led a major international genome project. The international research grant from NIH, USA is a testimony of Singapore's world-class standard in genomics research."

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

A*STAR Findings on Breast Cancer Hold Potential for New Treatments
Computational techniques to increase understanding of diseases and improve patient treatments.
Friday, October 30, 2015
A*STAR Scientists Discover Gene Critical for Proper Brain Development
This gene accounts for the size of the human brain and potentially our superior cognitive abilities.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Gene Associated with an Aggressive Breast Cancer Identified
Over-expressed gene in triple negative breast cancer offers new diagnostics for risk assessment.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Novel Gene Predicts Both Breast Cancer Relapse and Response to Chemotherapy
A predictive marker discovered by scientists at A*STAR and NUS could help doctors classify breast cancer patients for more effective treatment.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
New Tool to Study Critical Protein Interaction in Cancer Research
A*STAR scientists used fluorescent molecular rotors to study protein-protein interactions involving p53 and MDM2 in cells.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
New Possibilities for Leukaemia Therapy with a Novel Mode of Cancer Cell Recognition
A new class of lipids in human leukaemia cells trigger an immune response to kill the cells.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Nature and Nurture: Baby's Development is Affected by Genes and Conditions in the Womb
First attempt to discover how genetic and environmental factors affect the human epigenome.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
A*STAR Scientists Discover Novel Hormone Essential for Heart Development
This unusual discovery could aid cardiac repair and provide new therapies to common heart diseases and hypertension.
Friday, December 06, 2013
A*STAR and NUS Launch Joint Centre
The S$148 million centre will study the role of nutrition and early development in health and disease in Asia.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Scientists Find a Promising Way To Boost The Body’s Immune Surveillance Via p53
Researchers at A*STAR have discovered a new mechanism involving p53, the famous tumour suppressor, to fight against aggressive cancers.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Singapore Scientists Discover New RNA Processing Pathway Important in hESCs
Discovery of RNA regulator could lead to a better understanding of diseases like cancer and influenza.
Monday, September 09, 2013
Scientists at GIS Discover Gene that Controls the Birth of Neurons
Discovery of long non-coding RNA's role in neurogenesis may lead to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
A*STAR Scientist Alex Matter Awarded Prestigious Szent-Gyorgyi Prize For Progress In Cancer Research
National Foundation for Cancer Research honours Professor Alex Matter with esteemed award for groundbreaking cancer pill that gives leukaemia patients a new lease of life.
Friday, April 05, 2013
A*STAR Scientists Make Discovery of Cell Nucleus Structure Crucial to Understanding Diseases
Genes relocated from their correct position in the nucleus cause them to malfunction and this may lead to the heart, blood vessels and muscles breaking down.
Friday, February 08, 2013
A*STAR's GIS Collaborates with GSK to Further Research on Lung Cancer
Partnership will advance both organizations' joint efforts towards finding a cure for the disease.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Scientific News
Revolutionary Technologies Developed to Improve Outcomes for Lung Cancer Patients
Breath test to detect lung cancer brings oxygen directly to the wound.
Dementia Linked to Deficient DNA Repair
Mutant forms of breast cancer factor 1 (BRCA1) are associated with breast and ovarian cancers but according to new findings, in the brain the normal BRCA1 gene product may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
New Gene Map Reveals Cancer’s Achilles’ Heel
Team of researchers switches off almost 18,000 genes
New Discovery Sheds Light on Disease Risk
Gaps between genes interact to influence the risk of acquiring disease.
Mathematical Model Helps Show How Zebrafish Get Their Stripes
The iconic yellow and blue stripes of zebrafish form dynamically as young fish develop and grow. A mathematical model developed by Brown University researchers helps to show how pigment cells interact to form the pattern.
Epigenome Influenced by Habitat and Lifestyle
Study on Pygmy hunter-gatherer populations and Bantu farmers in Central Africa shows that habitat and lifestyle can impact the epigenome.
Shining Light on Microbial Growth and Death Inside our Guts
Precise measurement of microbial populations in gastrointestinal tracts could be key to identifying novel therapies.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos