Public Release: 

The genome sequence of Tibetan antelope sheds new light on high-altitude adaptation

BGI Shenzhen

May 17, 2013, Shenzhen, China---- Why Tibetan antelope can live at elevations of 4,000-5,000m on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau? In a collaborative research published in Nature Communications, investigators from Qinghai University, BGI, and other institutes provide evidence that some genetic factors may be associated with the species' adaption to harsh highland environments. The data in this work will also provide implications for studying specific genetic mechanisms and the biology of other ruminant species.

The Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) is a native of the high mountain steppes and semi-desert areas of the Tibetan plateau. Interestingly, it is the only member of the genus Pantholops. Tibetan antelope is a medium sized antelope with the unique adaptations to against the harsh high-altitude climate. For non-native mammals such as humans, they may experience life-threatening acute mountain sickness when visiting high-altitude regions.

In this study, researchers suggest that Tibetan antelopes must have evolved exceptional mechanisms to adapt to this extremely inhospitable habitat. Using next-gen sequencing technology, they have decoded the genome of Tibetan antelope and studied the underlying genetic mechanism of high-altitude adaptations.

Through the comparison between Tibetan antelope and other plain-dwelling mammals, researchers found the Tibetan antelope had the signals of adaptive evolution and gene-family expansion in genes associated with energy metabolism and oxygen transmission, indicating that gene categories involved in energy metabolism appear to have an important role for Tibetan antelope via efficiently providing energy in conditions of low partial pressure of oxygen (PO2).

Further research revealed that both the Tibetan antelope and the highland American pika have signals of positive selection for genes involved in DNA repair and the production of ATPase. Considering the exposure to high levels of ultraviolet radiation, positive selective genes related to DNA repair may be vital to protect the Tibetan antelope from it.

Qingle Cai, Project manager from BGI, said, "The completed genome sequence of the Tibetan antelope provides a more complete blueprint for researchers to study the genetic mechanisms of highland adaptation. This work may also open a new way to understand the adaptation of the low partial pressure of oxygen in human activities."

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About BGI

BGI was founded in 1999 with the mission of being a premier scientific partner to the global research community. The goal of BGI is to make leading-edge genomic science highly accessible through its investment in infrastructure that leverages the best available technology, economies of scale, and expert bioinformatics resources. BGI, which includes both private non-profit genomic research institutes and sequencing application commercial units, and its affiliates, BGI Americas, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, and BGI Europe, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, have established partnerships and collaborations with leading academic and government research institutions as well as global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, supporting a variety of disease, agricultural, environmental, and related applications. BGI has established a proven track record of excellence, delivering results with high efficiency and accuracy for innovative, high-profile research which has generated over 250 publications in top-tier journals such as Nature and Science. These accomplishments include sequencing one percent of the human genome for the International Human Genome Project, contributing 10 percent to the International Human HapMap Project, carrying out research to combat SARS and German deadly E. coli, playing a key role in the Sino-British Chicken Genome Project, and completing the sequence of the rice genome, the silkworm genome, the first Asian diploid genome, the potato genome, and, most recently, have sequenced the human Gut metagenome, and a significant proportion of the genomes for the 1,000 genomes project. For more information about BGI please visit http://www.genomics.cn

Further information

Bicheng Yang
Public Communications Officer, BGI, Tel: +86-755-82639701 or Email: yangbicheng@genomics.cn

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