Chimpanzee genome reveals striking differences, Chimpanzee genome: Exploring the story of chimp research, Evolution: First chimp fossil, Chimpanzee genome: What does genetic breakthrough mean for chimps in the lab?

Newsworthy articles from Nature Vol.437 No.7055 Dated 1 September 2005

This press release is copyright Nature. VOL.437 NO.7055 DATED 1 SEPTEMBER 2005

This press release contains:
Genetics: Chimpanzee genome reveals striking differences
Chimpanzee genome: Exploring the story of chimp research
Evolution: First chimp fossil
Chimpanzee genome: What does genetic breakthrough mean for chimps in the lab?

[1] - [4] Genetics: Chimpanzee genome reveals striking differences (pp
69-87, 88-93, 94-100 & 101-104; N&V)

Geneticists have pieced together the genome sequence of our closest living
relative, the chimpanzee - a milestone on the quest to discover what sets us
apart from other animals. The sequence was determined by an international
group, called the Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, using the
same 'whole-genome shotgun' method currently being used to decode the
sequence of many species' genomes, and is published as one of a number of
genomic studies in this week's Nature.

By comparing the human and chimpanzee sequences, the consortium has
identified several regions in the human genome that bear the hallmarks of
strong natural selection, whereas the corresponding chimpanzee sequences do
not. These sequences may hold the most promise for determining
human-specific traits such as language.

However, our two species may be more different than we thought. Although the
two sequences differ by only 1.2% in terms of single-letter changes to the
genetic code, duplications and rearrangements of larger stretches of DNA add
a further difference of 2.7%, report Evan Eichler and his colleagues in an
accompanying study. In another paper, Barbara Trask and her research team
show that such 'segmental duplications' in the human genome frequently occur
in regions near the ends of chromosomes, called subtelomeres, and indicates
that these sites may be 'hot spots' for genetic diversity between the two

Elsewhere in the issue, David Page and colleagues report that chimpanzees'
sexual habits may be bad for their Y chromosomes. The Y contains important
genes for sperm production but does not get shuffled as much as other
chromosomes and therefore is subject to more mutations over time. Sperm
production is important to male chimpanzees as they need to produce a lot of
sperm in the frenzied competition to fertilize promiscuous females.
Therefore, many deleterious genetic mutations may hitch a ride with these
vital genes and are not weeded out by natural selection.

Robert H. Waterston (University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle,
Tel: +1 206 221 7377; E-mail: [email protected] Paper [1]

Evan E. Eichler (Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Washington
School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA)
Tel: +1 206 543 9526; E-mail: [email protected] Paper [2]

Barbara J. Trask (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of
Washington, Seattle, WA, USA)
Tel: +1 206 667 1470; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>
Paper [3]

David Page (Whitehead Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 258 5203; E-mail: [email protected] Paper [4]

Wen-Hsiung Li (University of Chicago, IL USA)
Tel: +1 773 702 3104; E-mail: [email protected] News and Views author

Chris Gunter (Senior Editor, Nature)
Tel: +1 202 737 4855; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

[5] - [8] Chimpanzee genome: Exploring the story of chimp research (pp 52-55, 56-59, 60-63 & 64-67)

The publication of the chimpanzee's genome sequence is the latest
achievement in scientists' efforts to get to know the chimpanzee - a story
that has lasted for around a century. To accompany the genetic sequence,
four Progress articles in this week's Nature chart the history of this
research, as well as some of researchers' most recent findings and their
ambitions for the future.

Frans de Waal gives an overview of the past century of chimpanzee studies,
which have transformed our view of the chimpanzee from that of an unthinking
ape to a complex social creature. He argues that "humans do occupy a special
place among the primates, but this place increasingly has to be defined
against a backdrop of substantial similarity".

Marc Hauser gives an insight into the chimpanzee intellect by describing
their systems of 'folk mathematics' and 'folk psychology', showing that
chimpanzees do indeed possess modest mathematical capacities and the ability
to deduce what another chimpanzee might be thinking. Andrew Whiten describes
chimpanzee 'culture' - the ability to inherit social skills by copying the
actions of others, such as using tools to get food. Meanwhile, Robert Sean
Hill and Christopher Walsh explore the insights that comparisons with the
chimpanzee genome might give us when trying to explore the evolutionary
forces that have shaped our own powerful brains.

Andrew Whiten (University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, UK)
Tel: +44 1334 462073; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]> Paper [5]

Frans B. M. de Waal (Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA)
Tel: +1 404 727 7898; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>
Paper [6]

Marc Hauser (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 496 7077; E-mail: [email protected] Paper [7]

Christopher A. Walsh (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 667 0813; E-mail: [email protected] Paper [8]

[9] Evolution: First chimp fossil (pp 105-108)

Fossils of early humans are rare, but those of chimpanzees have been absent
from the fossil record altogether, until now. In this week's Nature, Sally
McBrearty and Nina Jablonski describe the first report of fossils of a
chimp. The fossils are modest - just three teeth - but they have the
potential to change received wisdom about human evolution. Modern chimpanzee
populations are found in tropical West and central Africa, whereas fossils
of early humans are most commonly found to the east, in the semi-arid Rift
Valley. This has prompted speculation that humans and chimps have been
ecologically distinct ever since they went their separate evolutionary ways
5-8 million years ago.

The new fossils change that view. They were isolated from sediments in Kenya
that were laid down half a million years ago, and that had already yielded
fossils of early humans. The new finds clearly demonstrate that habitats
suitable for humans and chimps were present in the Rift Valley at that
relatively recent date, showing that the Rift Valley was not an impenetrable
barrier to chimpanzee colonization, as previously thought.

Sally McBrearty (University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA)
Tel: +1 860 486 2857; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

[10] & [11] Chimpanzee genome: What does genetic breakthrough mean for
chimps in the lab? (pp; pp)

The new-found wealth of knowledge of chimpanzee genetics will undoubtedly
influence research on captive chimpanzees. But how far should such research
go, and what ethical considerations should be put in place? Two Commentaries
in this week's Nature propose contrasting approaches to future biomedical
research on great apes.

Pascal Gagneux, James Moore and Ajit Varki call for the establishment of
broad guidelines for the ethical and humane treatment of captive chimpanzees
in research institutions. This is necessary, they argue, because biomedical
researchers have special ethical responsibilities towards captive great
apes. They also propose that researchers should never be allowed to attempt
to breed transgenic chimps - as is often done in the case of mice.

The idea that the publication of the chimp genome is a watershed event for
chimp research is shared by the authors of an accompanying Commentary. But
Stuart Zola and his colleagues highlight very different concerns. They fear
that the population of chimps in US research facilities will decline rapidly
over the next 5 years, owing to the current NIH moratorium on chimpanzee
breeding in captivity.

Ajit Varki (University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 858 534 3296; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

John L. VandeBerg (Southwest National Primate Research Center, San Antonio,
Please contact via: Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research
Communication Office,
Tel: +1 210 258 9437

Stuart Zola (Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Atlanta, GA, USA)
Please contact via Yerkes Public Affairs Office
Tel: +1 404 727 7709

[email protected]

[email protected] will host a variety of news stories, features and
interactive graphics to support Nature's chimp genome special issue. Come to <> to find out how human
chimps really are when it comes to their genetics, relationships, muscles,
intellect and behaviour. Take a quiz to see if you can tell what chimps mean
by their gestures and vocalisations. Watch video footage of chimps being
studied in the lab and in the wild. See a timeline of chimp research, and a
roll call of famous chimps through research history. And, in our background
features, read about the language skills of chimps, and the current state of
chimp conservation in the wild.

For North America and Canada
Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Rinoko Asami, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above
Ruth Francis, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4562; E-mail [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

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Published: 31 Aug 2005

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