Genetic analyses from ancient DNA

Authors: S. Päabo, H. Poinar, D. Serre, V. Jaenicke-Despres, J. Hebler, N. Rohland, M. Kuch, J. Krause, L. Vigilant, and M. Hofreiter
Journal: Annu. Rev. Genet. 2004. 38:645–79

About 20 years ago, DNA sequences were separately described from the quagga (a type of zebra) and an ancient Egyptian individual. What made these DNA sequences exceptional was that they were derived from 140- and 2400-year-old specimens. However, ancient DNA research, defined broadly as the retrieval of DNA sequences from museum specimens, archaeological finds, fossil remains, and other unusual sources of DNA, only really became feasible with the advent of techniques for the enzymatic amplification of specific DNA sequences. Today, reports of analyses of specimens hundreds, thousands, and even millions of years old are almost commonplace. But can all these results be believed? In this paper,we critically assess the state of ancient DNA research. In particular, we discuss the precautions and criteria necessary to ascertain to the greatest extent possible that results represent authentic ancient DNA sequences. We also highlight some significant results and areas of promising future research.

» Read more (PDF – 340 Kb)

The poop on ancient man

Logo Globe and Mail

Authors: Jacob Berkowitz
Media: The Globe and Mail
Date: June 2004

Hendrik Poinar is holding a small plastic vial containing some of the oldest DNA ever extracted from human remains. The snips of genetic material are from a native American who made his home 8,000 years ago in a massive cliff-side rock shelter in southwestern Texas.

» Read more

Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery in mammals: a targeted-gene approach

Authors: N. Aitken, S. Smith, C. Schwarz, P.A. Morin
Journal: Mol Ecol. – 13(6):1423-3 (June 2004)

Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have rarely been exploited in nonhuman and nonmodel organism genetic studies. This is due partly to difficulties in finding SNPs in species where little DNA sequence data exist, as well as to a lack of robust and inexpensive genotyping methods. We have explored one SNP discovery method for molecular ecology, evolution, and conservation studies to evaluate the method and its limitations for population genetics in mammals. We made use of ‘CATS’ (or ‘EPIC’) primers to screen for novel SNPs in mammals. Most of these primer sets were designed from primates and/or rodents, for amplifying intron regions from conserved genes. We have screened 202 loci in 16 representatives of the major mammalian clades. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) success correlated with phylogenetic distance from the human and mouse sequences used to design most primers; for example, specific PCR products from primates and the mouse amplified the most consistently and the marsupial and armadillo amplifications were least successful. Approximately 24% (opossum) to 65% (chimpanzee) of primers produced usable PCR product(s) in the mammals tested. Products produced generally high but variable levels of readable sequence and similarity to the expected genes. In a preliminary screen of chimpanzee DNA, 12 SNPs were identified from six (of 11) sequenced regions, yielding a SNP on average every 400 base pairs (bp). Given the progress in genome sequencing, and the large numbers of CATS-like primers published to date, this approach may yield sufficient SNPs per species for population and conservation genetic studies in nonmodel mammals and other organisms.

» Read more (PDF – 250 Kb)

Characterization of 15 single nucleotide polymorphism markers for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Authors: S. Smith , N. Aitken , C. Schwarz , P.A. Morin
Journal: Mol Ecol Notes – 4, 348-51 (2004)

We report the characterization of 15 new single nucleotide polymorphism markers for a threatened species, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), developed using a targeted gene approach. These markers are derived from the Y chromosome and autosomal regions of the genome and show frequency differences between chimpanzee subspecies from central and western Africa. These single nucleotide polymorphism markers are the first to be designed for the genotyping of wild chimpanzee populations and will provide a useful addition to the genetic tools employed for the conservation management of this threatened species.

» Read more (PDF – 90 Kb)

Prehistoric DNA to Help Solve Human-Evolution Mysteries?

Logo National Geography

Authors: John Pickrell
Media: National Geographic News
Date: March 2004

It may be possible to extract DNA from the bones of human ancestors and other hominids who died up to one million years ago, researchers believe. Hominids are primates that walk upright, including humans and extinct human ancestors and related forms.

» Read more

Page 1 of 2   | 12