Almoradux died when he was six year old as a result of the Renal Chronic Desease. He was the only male in the captive breeding programme born in Doñana. After his death he continued helping us to have a better knowledge of this species at the verge of extinction.
Scientist involved in Lynxgenomics project have used samples of different organs of his body to study them genetically.Each cell of the body of a living being contains the whole DNA of the individual. Every cell has two identical copies except the gametes, the sexual cells, which only have one party (so that a new two-copies cell form when two sexual cells meets).
But, how can we have the same DNA and so various organs and tissues that are differentiated, specialized in so many different functions? For example, length has nothing to do with the hart even when they share the same genome. This is because in each cell only a part of the whole genetic information is activated and functioning. This combination in one organ is totally different than in another, so that a particular set of genes are 'expressed' and produces a specific type of proteins.
Lynxgenomics' team has been trying to find and analyse those Iberian lynx genes that are 'expressed' or active all over the body and in every organ. To do this they took samples of ten organs from Almoradux, like the liver, skin, spleen, brain or testicles.
Those genes that express themselves produce what it is called an RNA (ribonucleic acid), which is an intermediate copy of the DNA that serves as a template to generate proteins. By comparing the RNA sequences obtained from the lynx with those known in human and domestic cats, scientist have identified more than 18.700 genes that are expressed in the lynx.
Furthermore, more than half of these genes have been sequenced over 90% of their length, what indicates that a good coverage of the expressed part of the Iberian lynx has been obtained. As in other species, the active genes are a small fraction, between 1 and 2 %, of the whole DNA.
The analysis of the transcriptome has also provided a very useful tool for the development of the Lynxgenomics project, as it has been used as support for the process of assembly of the lynx genome. RNA data have contributed to the assembly by providing ordered stretches of sequences in the mess of loose pieces of the puzzle that is an unassembled genome.
In addition, once the sequencing of the lynx genome is completed, the transcriptome will assist researchers with what is technically known as 'genome annotation': to locate the start and end of every gene and to identify their function.
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.