Neanderthal Nuclear DNA To Be Sequenced

May 18th, 2006 | researchmaterial

The first sequences of nuclear DNA to be taken from a Neanderthal have been reported at a US science meeting.

Geneticist Svante Paabo and his team say they isolated the long segments of genetic material from a 45,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil from Croatia. The work should reveal how closely related the Neanderthal species was to modern humans…

It is a significant advance on previous research that has extracted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) specimens. This genetic material is contained in structures that power cells; and although the information it holds is very useful, it is more limited in scope than the DNA bundled up at the cell’s centre. This nuclear DNA is what really drives an organism’s biochemistry…


One Response to “Neanderthal Nuclear DNA To Be Sequenced”

  1. From the article:

    Preliminary analysis shows the bundle of DNA responsible for maleness in the Neanderthal – its Y chromosome – is very different from modern human and chimpanzee Y chromosomes; more so than for the other chromosomes in the genome.

    This might suggest that little interbreeding occurred between our own species and the Neanderthals.

    That is odd. Enhanced sequence for the chimp Y chromosome was just recently released in March – I wonder if this result reflects that new sequence. The Y is a strange goose – during meiosis, the biological process responsible for the creation of sperm and eggs, most chromosomes undergo a controlled shuffling of genomic material called recombination, but *the Y chromosome does not. It has its own mechanism for shuffling (loosely referred to as ‘gene conversion’) which may allow it to shuffle (and mutate) faster than other chromosomes.

    The fact that the Neanderthal Y is so different from both the human and the chimp Y indicates to me that Neanderthals (or at least the subpopulation of Neanderthals under study) were somehow isolated and subjected to different environmental pressures than human beings and chimps – which might explain why they aren’t around any more. It will be interesting to see if Paabo’s group makes any inferences about this when they publish their data.

    * Actually, the Y does undergo recombination – it synapses with the X chromosome, but if I remember correctly only a tiny chunk of the chromosome (called the pseudo-autosomal region, or PAR) gets shuffled.