The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced that a multi-center team has deposited the draft genome sequence of the rhesus macaque monkey into free public databases for use by the worldwide research community.
The rhesus macaque ("Macaca mulatta") is the second non-human primate, after the chimpanzee ("Pan troglodytes"), to have its genome sequenced, and is the first of the Old World monkeys to have its DNA deciphered.
Overall, the rhesus genome shares about 92 to 95 percent of its sequence with the human ("Homo sapiens") and more than 98 percent with the chimpanzee.
Consequently, the rhesus provides an ideal reference point for comparisons among the three closely related primates. Sequencing is also underway on the genomes of a number of other primates, including the orangutan, marmoset and gorilla.
The DNA samples used in the sequencing came from a female rhesus macaque at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio.
Independent assemblies of the rhesus genome data were carried out at each of the three sequencing centers using different and complementary approaches.
A team led by Granger Sutton, Ph.D., at the J. Craig Venter Institute, then joined the resulting data into a single, high-density draft, or "melded assembly."
This collaborative venture also made use of existing resources: the reference sequence of the human genome, published rhesus DNA mapping resources and the rhesus DNA fingerprint database from the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Center at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver.
The new, high-quality assembly, which covers 93 percent of the rhesus genome, will enable researchers to make evolutionary comparisons and accurate gene predictions for this important organism.
Because of its genetic, physiologic and metabolic similarities with humans, the rhesus macaque is the major, non-human primate used for the study of human disease, and also serves as an important system in drug development.
Rhesus macaques are used for essential research in neuroscience, behavioral biology, reproductive physiology, endocrinology and cardiovascular studies.
In addition, due to its response to the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the rhesus is widely recognized as the best animal model for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
It also serves as a valuable model for studying other human infectious diseases and for vaccine research.
The availability of the rhesus genome sequence will facilitate study in these areas by enabling researchers to build a list of rhesus genes, as well as a list of differences between the rhesus, the chimpanzee and humans.
A group of scientists has been organized to speed more detailed analyses of the rhesus data.
The worldwide research community can access the sequence data through the following public databases and genome viewers: GenBank and Map Viewer at NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI); EMBL Bank at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's Nucleotide Sequence Database; and the DNA Data Bank of Japan.