LynxGenomics, the Iberian Lynx species genome project, reached a new milestone with the identification of about 20.000 genes within the feline DNA, a similar number as other mammal species. This is the culmination of the annotation process, which leads to the final phase: the interpretation one, where scientist makes comparisons with another genomes, investigates the species history and draws the first conclusions.
Alfonso Valencia is the director of the Structural Computational Biology Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), wich is involved in the Lynxgenomics project. They are focussed on the transposons' study, an specific area in the genome characterized by rapid changes over a short period of time, just like cancer...
The Lynxgenomics project has completed the assembly of the first draft of the lynx genome, after two and a half years of hard work using cutting edge technologies. This means achieving a major milestone for the project, although this is not the end of the path, because the structure obtained is now blank, like a mute city map, without street or square names, so it is of little use.
The Iberian Lynx can be in a so called 'extinction vortex', an spiral that inevitably would lead to its disappearance if extraordinary measures are not taken to avoid their genetic impoverishment and deterioration, says a CSIC's research. Genome sequencing of this feline will be a step in this direction.
A study carried out by researchers at the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences and the Estación Biológica de Doñana, both adscribed to CSIC, establishes that inbred lynxes tend to have higer levels of abnormal sperm.
The scientists evaluated two critically endangered species that live in the South of the Peninsula Iberica, lynxes and the Mohor gazelle. The feline only subsists in two isolated areas, Doñana and Sierra Morena, meanwhile Mohor gazelle lives in captivity at the Parque de Rescate de Fauna Sahariana in Almería. For the latter species, no wild animals remain.
The Iberian lynx is one of the most genetically depleted feline in the world. This is the main conclusion of a CSIC's research, which confirms what it was widely assumed: the existence of an extensive genetic shading in the only remaining lynx populations, and as a consequence, their endangered situation.
The president of Bank of Santander, Emilio Botín, has stressed that the Endangered Species Project Zero, where Lynxgenomics' belonged to, demonstrates that 'collaboration between universities and research centers , business and governments is possible, and that when it happens extraordinarily productive.'
Candiles is the lynx chosen by cyentist to unveil the genome of this species. But he is not the only one who is under the microscope. Lynxgenomics' team is working in parallel with samples taken from another ten iberian lynx and one more from an european lynx. They are trying to read their DNA using an specific process called re-sequencing due to built a genetic data base in order to compare them with the aim of find differences.
The genome is an essential part of a living being. Like any meat or vegetable, preservation is a big issue, because when a cell die, its DNA is lost. What can it be done? Scientist have found a way to store it and, at the same time, to have as many samples as they want, whenever they want... they discovered that some kind of cells can live with an special guest, a piece of genetic information from another living being. These cells are bacteria.
The main aim of this research is to generate the first map of the Iberian lynx genome, which will provide important information on the evolution of this species and on the genetic consequences of its decline.
The lynx genomic sequence has already been identified by CNAG and is in the process of being assembled. When the process ends, in 2012, the researchers will face a new challenge: interpret it and compare it to other felid genomes.