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Researcher uses mammal DNA to zoom into the human genome with unprecedented resolution

Date:
May 12, 2023
Source:
Keck School of Medicine of USC
Summary:
Scientists have precisely identified base pairs of the human genome that remained consistent over millions of years of mammalian evolution, and which play a crucial role in human disease. The team analyzed the genomes of 240 mammals, including humans and identified base pairs that were 'constrained' -- meaning they remained generally consistent -- across mammal species over the course of evolution. The most constrained base pairs in mammals were over seven times more likely to be causal for human disease and complex trait, and over 11 times more likely when researchers looked at the most constrained base pairs in primates alone.
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"Why do humans have disease if they went through millions of years of evolution?" It's a question Steven Gazal, PhD, assistant professor of population and public health sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, hopes to answer.

Gazal is part of an international team of researchers who have become the first to precisely identify base pairs of the human genome that remained consistent over millions of years of mammalian evolution, and which play a crucial role in human disease. The findings were published in a special Zoonomia edition of Science.

Gazal and his team analyzed the genomes of 240 mammals, including humans, zooming in with unprecedented resolution to compare DNA. They were able to identify base pairs that were "constrained" -- meaning they remained generally consistent -- across mammal species over the course of evolution. Individuals born with mutations on these genes may not have been as successful within their species or were otherwise not likely to pass down the genetic variation. "We were able to identify where gene mutations are not tolerated in evolution, and we demonstrated that these mutations are significant when it comes to disease," explains Gazal.

The team found that 3.3% of bases in the human genome are "significantly constrained," including 57.6% of the coding bases that determine amino acid position, meaning these bases had unusually few variants across species in the dataset. The most constrained base pairs in mammals were over seven times more likely to be causal for human disease and complex trait, and over 11 times more likely when researchers looked at the most constrained base pairs in primates alone.

The dataset was provided by the Zoonomia consortium, which according to the project website, "is applying advances in DNA sequencing technologies to understand how genomes generate the tremendous wealth of animal diversity." Gazal gives credit to Zoonomia for making this type of data available to researchers and anticipates it will be widely used by human geneticists. "It's a cheap resource to generate, as opposed to datasets generated in human genetic studies," says Gazal.

His team's findings are a significant step forward, as Gazal notes, "we do not understand 99% of the human genome, so it is fundamental to understand which part has been constrained by evolution and is likely to have an impact on human phenotypes." Their discoveries and methods could become crucial tools for further research.

The next step for Gazal and his team is to repeat the process with a primate-only dataset. By restricting the subjects, they hope to focus on functions of DNA that appeared more recently in human evolution. "We expect this to be even more useful in determining information on human disease," says Gazal.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Keck School of Medicine of USC. Original written by Carolyn Barnes. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Patrick F. Sullivan, Jennifer R. S. Meadows, Steven Gazal, BaDoi N. Phan, Xue Li, Diane P. Genereux, Michael X. Dong, Matteo Bianchi, Gregory Andrews, Sharadha Sakthikumar, Jessika Nordin, Ananya Roy, Matthew J. Christmas, Voichita D. Marinescu, Chao Wang, Ola Wallerman, James Xue, Shuyang Yao, Quan Sun, Jin Szatkiewicz, Jia Wen, Laura M. Huckins, Alyssa Lawler, Kathleen C. Keough, Zhili Zheng, Jian Zeng, Naomi R. Wray, Yun Li, Jessica Johnson, Jiawen Chen, Benedict Paten, Steven K. Reilly, Graham M. Hughes, Zhiping Weng, Katherine S. Pollard, Andreas R. Pfenning, Karin Forsberg-Nilsson, Elinor K. Karlsson, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Gregory Andrews, Joel C. Armstrong, Matteo Bianchi, Bruce W. Birren, Kevin R. Bredemeyer, Ana M. Breit, Matthew J. Christmas, Hiram Clawson, Joana Damas, Federica Di Palma, Mark Diekhans, Michael X. Dong, Eduardo Eizirik, Kaili Fan, Cornelia Fanter, Nicole M. Foley, Karin Forsberg-Nilsson, Carlos J. Garcia, John Gatesy, Steven Gazal, Diane P. Genereux, Linda Goodman, Jenna Grimshaw, Michaela K. Halsey, Andrew J. Harris, Glenn Hickey, Michael Hiller, Allyson G. Hindle, Robert M. Hubley, Graham M. Hughes, Jeremy Johnson, David Juan, Irene M. Kaplow, Elinor K. Karlsson, Kathleen C. Keough, Bogdan Kirilenko, Klaus-Peter Koepfli, Jennifer M. Korstian, Amanda Kowalczyk, Sergey V. Kozyrev, Alyssa J. Lawler, Colleen Lawless, Thomas Lehmann, Danielle L. Levesque, Harris A. Lewin, Xue Li, Abigail Lind, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Ava Mackay-Smith, Voichita D. Marinescu, Tomas Marques-Bonet, Victor C. Mason, Jennifer R. S. Meadows, Wynn K. Meyer, Jill E. Moore, Lucas R. Moreira, Diana D. Moreno-Santillan, Kathleen M. Morrill, Gerard Muntané, William J. Murphy, Arcadi Navarro, Martin Nweeia, Sylvia Ortmann, Austin Osmanski, Benedict Paten, Nicole S. Paulat, Andreas R. Pfenning, BaDoi N. Phan, Katherine S. Pollard, Henry E. Pratt, David A. Ray, Steven K. Reilly, Jeb R. Rosen, Irina Ruf, Louise Ryan, Oliver A. Ryder, Pardis C. Sabeti, Daniel E. Schäffer, Aitor Serres, Beth Shapiro, Arian F. A. Smit, Mark Springer, Chaitanya Srinivasan, Cynthia Steiner, Jessica M. Storer, Kevin A. M. Sullivan, Patrick F. Sullivan, Elisabeth Sundström, Megan A. Supple, Ross Swofford, Joy-El Talbot, Emma Teeling, Jason Turner-Maier, Alejandro Valenzuela, Franziska Wagner, Ola Wallerman, Chao Wang, Juehan Wang, Zhiping Weng, Aryn P. Wilder, Morgan E. Wirthlin, James R. Xue, Xiaomeng Zhang. Leveraging base-pair mammalian constraint to understand genetic variation and human disease. Science, 2023; 380 (6643) DOI: 10.1126/science.abn2937

Cite This Page:

Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Researcher uses mammal DNA to zoom into the human genome with unprecedented resolution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 May 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/05/230512144800.htm>.
Keck School of Medicine of USC. (2023, May 12). Researcher uses mammal DNA to zoom into the human genome with unprecedented resolution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/05/230512144800.htm
Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Researcher uses mammal DNA to zoom into the human genome with unprecedented resolution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/05/230512144800.htm (accessed February 28, 2024).

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