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Contact: Dr. Hilary Glover
hilary.glover@biomedcentral.com
44-020-319-22370
BioMed Central

Getting under the shell of the turtle genome

The genome of the western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) one of the most widespread, abundant and well-studied turtles in the world, is published this week in Genome Biology. The data show that, like turtles themselves, the rate of genome evolution is extremely slow; turtle genomes evolve at a rate that is about a third that of the human genome and a fifth that of the python, the fastest lineage analyzed.

As a group, turtles are long-lived, can withstand low temperatures including freezing solid, can survive for long periods with no oxygen, and their sex is usually determined by the temperature at which their eggs develop rather than genetically. The painted turtle is most anoxia-tolerant vertebrate and can survive up to four months under water depending on the temperature. Turtles and tortoises are also the most endangered major vertebrate group on earth, with half of all species listed as endangered. This is the first turtle, and only the second non-avian reptile genome to be sequenced, and the analysis reveals some interesting insights about these bizarre features and adaptations, many of which are only known in turtles.

The western painted turtle is a freshwater species, and the most widespread turtle native to North America. Bradley Shaffer and colleagues place the western painted turtle genome into a comparative evolutionary context, showing that turtles are more closely related to birds and crocodilians than to any other vertebrates. They also find 19 genes in the brain and 23 in the heart whose expression is increased in low oxygen conditions including one whose expression changes nearly 130 fold. Further experiments on turtle hatchlings indicated that common microRNA was involved in freeze tolerance adaptation.

This work consistently indicates that common vertebrate regulatory networks, some of which have analogs in human diseases, are often involved in the western painted turtle achieving its extraordinary physiological capacities. The authors argue that the painted turtle may offer important insights into the management of a number of human health disorders, particularly those involved with anoxia and hypothermia.

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Media contact

Dr Hilary Glover
Scientific Press Officer, BioMed Central
Tel: +44 (0) 20 3192 2370
Mob: +44 (0) 778 698 1967
Email: hilary.glover@biomedcentral.com

Notes

1. The western painted turtle genome, a model for the evolution of extreme physiological adaptations in a slowly evolving lineage H Bradley Shaffer, Patrick Minx, Daniel E Warren, Andrew M Shedlock, Robert C Thomson, Nicole Valenzuela, John Abramyan, Chris T Amemiya, Daleen Badenhorst, Kyle K Biggar, Glen M Borchert, Christopher W Botka, Rachel M Bowden, Edward L Braun, Anne M Bronikowski, Benoit G Bruneau, Leslie T Buck, Blanche Capel, Todd A Castoe, Mike Czerwinski, Kim D Delehaunty, Scott V Edwards, Catrina C Fronick, Matthew K Fujita, Lucinda Fulton, Tina A Graves, Richard E Green, Wilfried Haerty, Ramkumar Hariharan, Omar Hernandez, LaDeana W Hillier, Alisha K Holloway, Daniel Janes, Fredric J Janzen, Cyriac Kandoth, Lesheng Kong, A P Jason de Koning, Yang Li, Robert Literman, Suzanne E McGaugh, Lindsey Mork, Michelle O'Laughlin, Ryan T Paitz, David D Pollock, Chris P Ponting, Srihari Radhakrishnan, Brian J Raney, Joy M Richman, John St. John, Tonia Schwartz, Arun Sethuraman, Phillip Q Spinks, Kenneth B Storey, Nay Thane, Tomas Vinar, Laura M Zimmerman, Wesley C Warren, Elaine R Mardis, and Richard K Wilson Genome Biology 2013, 14:R28 doi:10.1186/gb-2013-14-3-r28

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

2. Genome Biology publishes research articles, new methods and software tools, in addition to reviews and opinions, from the full spectrum of biology, including molecular, cellular, organism or population biology studied from a genomic perspective, as well as sequence analysis, bioinformatics, proteomics, comparative biology and evolution. @GenomeBiology

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector. @BioMedCentral

4. Genome Medicine and Genome Biology are hosting the Beyond the Genome conference, 1-3 October 2013 at the Mission Bay Conference Centre, San Francisco. Registration is still open! @beyondthegenome #btg13



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