Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October Genome Research

I love the smell of a new issue of Genome Research. Maybe I'm weird. In any case, there's lots of interesting stuff in this new one. There are a couple of articles on comparative fungal genomics from The Genolevures Consortium and Sharpton et al. There's a really interesting article on comparative genomics in magnetotactic bacteria by Nakazawa et al. They conclude,
Our findings suggest the presence of core genetic components for magnetosome biosynthesis; these genes may have been acquired into the magnetotactic bacterial genomes by multiple gene-transfer events during proteobacterial evolution.
No surprise there.

The real doozy in this issue is the article by Knowles and McLysaght "Recent de novo origin of human protein-coding genes." They compared human and primate genomes looking for genes in the human genome that are absent in the primates. They filtered out genes that might have been deleted from primates, and they found three genes that had sequences present in the primates but could not be active because of disabling mutations in the open reading frame. They provided evidence that these genes were actually active in humans by looking for cDNAs and protein sequences from GenBank and two proteomics databases. The genes they found were pretty weird. They code very short proteins, have no introns, and are found on the opposite strand of others genes. Siepel's commentary on this work is also worth reading.

Wouldn't it be nice if the human and chimp genomes were radically different? If humans had a whole army of genes not found in anything else? Making the case for our unique creation would be so much easier! But that ain't the way it is. Scrutinizing human and primate genomes for unique human genes leads to these three measly things. God doesn't make accidents, so what does this genomic similarity mean? I still don't have a really good grasp on that question.