BATON ROUGE – LSU's Mark Batzer, Boyd Professor and Dr. Mary Lou Applewhite Distinguished Professor in Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Science, contributed to an article in the scientific journal Nature Genetics, titled "The Common Marmoset Genome Provides Insight into Primate Biology and Evolution," published on July 20.
Batzer contributed analysis of "jumping genes," or mobile elements that move by a sort of "copy and paste" mechanism in the genome. The marmoset is important because it is the first "New World" monkey genome to be sequenced.
An abstract of the article is available at http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.3042.html.
Due to an export ban on marmosets from their native Brazil, primate research centers across the country and around the world have bred them to maintain colonies for study. To investigate the genomic diversity of these marmosets born and raised in captivity, Batzer and his assistants selected a primate specific mobile element, called Alu for a population genetic analysis as part of this project. DNA samples from 24 marmosets from three different breeding colonies in the country were provided.
Batzer runs the Batzer Laboratory of Comparative Genomics in the LSU College of Science, which specializes in the study of mobile DNA elements, often called "jumping genes" or even "junk DNA." These mobile elements have been found to cause insertions and deletions, which can lead to genetic diseases in humans as well as the creation of new genes and gene families in the genome. Because of this, understanding the impact of mobile elements on genome structure is paramount to understanding the function of the genome.
Mobile element insertions evolve in the lineage of each primate to paint a unique picture of "identical by descent" genomic markers. In much the same way, human-specific Alu subfamilies are being used to study genomic structural variation in human populations. The discovery that the most active branch, or subfamily, of Alu in the marmoset genome is specific to "New World" monkeys, highlights the usefulness of these mobile elements to the study of primate evolution.
More information on the Batzer Lab is available at https://biosci-batzerlab.biology.lsu.edu/.
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