Science & Technology - Posted by Andy Fell-UC Davis on Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:42 - 1 Comment
Yak genome shows high-altitude adaptation
UC DAVIS (US) — The genome of the yak, a hairy bovine found on the high Tibetan plateau, has been sequenced by an international team.
“The really cool discovery was that the same genes involved in adaptation of humans to high altitude were found to be under strong selection in the yak,” says Harris Lewin, vice chancellor for research at the University of California, Davis, who was involved in the study led by Chinese scientists.
The results were published July 2 in the journal Nature Genetics, and could help improve meat and milk production from the animals.
Straight from the Source
Yaks (Bos grunniens) provide basic meat, milk, transportation, and hides for Tibetans, as well as dung for fuel. They are closely related to domestic cattle (Bos taurus), but are highly adapted for their rugged, high-altitude environment. Domestic cattle get sick at the altitudes where yaks thrive.
Yaks and domestic cattle diverged from a common ancestor about 4.5 million years ago. The researchers found evidence that genes involved in responding to low oxygen levels and to extracting the most nutrition from sparse grazing were evolving more rapidly in the yak.
One of the genes they identified was ADAM-17, involved in regulating response to low oxygen levels. In studies of humans, Tibetans have also been found to have different variants of the ADAM-17 gene than lowlanders.
The sequencing effort was led by researchers from Lanzhou University and BGI-Shenzhen, China, with contributions from other institutions in China, the U.S. and Europe. The work was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, the International Collaboration 111 Projects of China, the 985 and 211 Projects of Lanzhou University, the Shenzhen Municipal Government, and the Hundreds-Talent Program from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
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