High-resolution Comparative Analysis of Great Ape Genomes

pacbio_shortlogo_color_rgb-01.jpgA new publication entitled "High-resolution comparative analysis of great ape genomes" was published in the journal Science recently. It is also highlighted on the cover of the magazine, featuring a very charismatic Bornean orangutan (below). The University of Washington issued a press release. The story is also featured in GenomeWeb article.

cover-photo.gifIn the paper, the team of over 40 authors from over a dozen institutions sequenced and assembled two human, one chimpanzee, and one orangutan genome with SMRT sequencing, improving the genome quality between 30-500fold compared to previous efforts. Importantly, these ape genomes were assembled de novo, that is without using the human genome as a guide (which was the previous approach, introducing bias), finally putting our close relatives' genomes onto an equal playing field to the human genome. They also sequenced more than 500,000 RNA molecules using PacBio's iso-seq method to construct gene models from scratch, thereby increasing our knowledge of gene expression diversity in each ape lineage. This new information results in dramatically improved understanding of basic biology, species diversity, evolutionary aspects, brain development, and many others that are highlighted in the paper, propelling us forward in our understanding what 'makes us human'. It can be argued that this paper sets a new bar of what can (and should) be done in the field of comparative genomics now and going forward (and extending to how the genomes between individual humans should ultimately be analyzed and compared), and illustrates powerfully the value PacBio sequencing brings to these types of scientific studies.

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