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New genome sheds light on Axolotl, a master of regeneration

  Axolotl genome

Axolotls, a type of salamander, are famous for their ability to regrow body parts. (Credit: Eric Isselee / Shutterstock)

Would not it be sweet if you could regrow your arm after regurgitation That's how the life of a salamander, those adorable slimy four-legged amphibians, limbs or even the spinal cord can regenerate.

But salamanders are interesting for more reasons than their crazy regeneration abilities. Especially if you look at the axolotl, a salamander widely used in biology as a model organism. It has a ginormous genome that is 32 billion base pairs long, which means that each of its cells contains 1

0 times more DNA than a human's. And it has a unique way of maturing, or should we say, not maturing – adult axolotls become sexually mature without giving up their childhood traits, as is the case with other animals. In other words, adults look like larvae. It's as if adult frogs still looked and danced like tadpoles.

In any case, scientists have been working on the construction of the Axolotl genome for years. And they just had a big break. A team from the University of Kentucky has just released the most complete axolotl genome yet, published in Genome Research . They found a way to combine state-of-the-art DNA sequencing with some old-school genetic techniques to obtain an updated map of axolotl genes.

Axolotl Opportunities

The new genome will open up some remarkable research opportunities. First, the genome researchers hope to learn why the Axolotl genome is so massive. There is still much to learn about the evolution of genomes and how they are shaped over time.

Another area of ​​research is to compare axolotl genes with genomes of other species that are more distantly related. The University of Kentucky team has already taken this path and has compared its new genome with those of a frog, a chicken and a human. In this way, they can search for genes that are conserved across species – like genes found in both salamanders and humans. In this way they can study one species to learn about the other, and both to learn about their evolutionary history.

Of course, many people are excited about salamander genes because of the insights they could give to human regeneration. Jeramiah Smith, associate professor and lead author of the newspaper, says it's still a long way to go. "But there are intermediate lessons that we can learn how a salamander reacts to an injury," he says.

"A salamander reprograms itself after an injury to undergo development in a substantially controlled manner that involves an arm, say a tumor, for example," says Smith, a vertebrate biologist at the UK. "Lessons on how Working cells or reprogramming genomes – these are things that I believe have much greater potential to be relevant lessons that can be applied to human health in the short term. "

Elly Tanaka, senior scientist at the Molecular Research Institute Her team, which was not involved in this study, published a previous version of the Axolotl genome a year ago, saying that this new genome is "a really big step forward." [19659004] "The Axolotl genome consisted of (before) 200,000 pieces," says Tanaka, but the new assembly effort has put these parts in order "This allows us to determine with some resolution which genes are close to other genes of the chromosome."

This is especially important for evolutionary biologists who want to know how genomes have evolved over time.

"It's an exciting time," says Tanaka. "There are all these unusual ways to quickly sequence DNA or to sequence large sections of DNA. And that gives us access to understanding the DNA sequence of not only the axolotl, but many other organisms that people have never worked on, that can regenerate or do other crazy interesting things. "

" I think it will be a real rejuvenation when you look at nature and study very intriguing things that were previously inaccessible, "she says.

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