Scientists analyzing human, worm and fly genomes have found that the genomes of these three distant species have a lot in common. A number of key genomic processes are similar, reflecting their shared ancestry. Findings appeared in the August 28 issues of the journal Nature. The study offers insights into gene regulation, embryonic development and other processes vital to understanding cell biology and diseases.
Researchers analyzed about 67 billion gene sequence transcripts
Researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) used massive amounts of gene expression data, including about 67 billion gene sequence transcripts to analyze gene expression patterns common in all three species. Scientists also figured out that the three species used common pathways for protein packaging to compact DNA into the cell nucleus.
Mark Gerstein, lead author of the study, said that comparative genomics and studying model organisms was a good way to understand and describe the human genome. Both worm and fly were very distant from humans evolutionarily. Therefore, discovering something fully conserved across all three species showed that it was an ancient and fundamental process.
Common processes in genomes of three species could be useful in medicine
In genomes of all three organisms, gene expression levels for protein-coding as well as non-protein coding genes could be predicted quantitatively from chromatin features at the genes’ promoters. Chromatin is a complex of DNA and some proteins that make it compact enough to fit into the cell nucleus. A gene’s promoter tells the cell where to star copying DNA into RNA, which is necessary to make proteins.
Sarah Djebali, co-author of the study, said that it was the first time genomes of such distant species have been compared so accurately. The discovery could also be useful in the development of new drugs. Human, worm and fly genomes have several common processes. Those processes in flies and worms could provide a significant advantage to screen micronutrients and drugs for their impact on the same processes in the human genome. According to the Washington University in St. Louis, 66 companies are working on 78 epigenetic therapy drugs for cancer alone.