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Big Data Analysis Reveals Gene Sharing in Mice

By Rice ­niversity

December 22, 2014

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Rice University scientists have identified at least three cases of cross-species mating in "old world" mice that likely enabled the passage of genetic material and had an impact on their evolutionary paths.

Rice biologist Michael Kohn and computer scientist Luay Nakhleh report two species of mice from various locations in Europe and Africa have shared genetic code at least three times over the centuries. Kohn tracked the genetic roots of mice to see how favorable evolutionary traits develop, while Nakhleh studied evolution by comparing genomic data.

The study compared the genome-scale data of 21 mice that originated in 15 different locations in Europe and Africa. Kohn, Nakhleh, and lead author Kevin Liu employed Rice's supercomputers and open source PhyloNet-HMM software to locate statistically likely connections between re-sequenced complete genomes in addition to newly determined ones and some collected previously.

One of the genomic regions, or tracts, appears to predate the colonization of Europe by M. m. domesticus, and the other likely affected the subjects' sense of smell, indicating an evolutionary advantage for mice looking for food or mates.

Kohn expects future studies will show evidence of more hybridization among mice from the regions studied and beyond.

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