Cinvestav participates in deciphering the axolotl genome

Researchers from the Advanced Genomics Unit of Cinvestav (UGA), collaborated in the decoding of the Mexican axolotl genome (Abystoma mexicanum), the largest that has been sequenced so far, by obtaining 32 billion base pairs, 10 times bigger than the human genome.

One of the enigmas that have arisen as a result of this sequencing is the absence of the “pax3” gene, vital in other species for the development of the organism. Instead, it has been discovered that the “pax7” gene is responsible for covering these functions.

The axolotl, an endemic species of Mexico, has the ability to repair and replace much of its tissues after an amputation, including bones, muscle and nerves; of healing wounds without scarring and regenerating damaged internal organs, no matter what stage of life you are in. The axolotls maintain the ability to regenerate as adults and do so in a controlled manner that does not lead to cancer. The cells are able to organize themselves in a very orderly manner until, over time, they return to generate a structure similar to the one that was lost.

Luis Alfredo Cruz Ramírez, researcher of the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity of the UGA involved in the published work, stressed that in terms of biology, this scientific development “will allow us to ask more specific questions about the structure of the genome, for example, where each gene is encoded, what are the regulatory regions of those genes, where are they located in the map of the chromosomes, among others. All this information will help to answer which is the molecular background that drives the regenerative capacity of this organism “.

Knowing the complete genome of the axolotl will make it possible to discover much faster, the molecular bases that intervene in the regeneration of this amphibian to export and apply this knowledge in humans.

Although the importance of sequencing falls directly to biology, the technology used to assemble such a complex genome must be highlighted, for which a sequencing tool was used that produces long readings to cover large regions. Alfredo Cruz, explained or part of this achieved thanks to the participation of the team of Dr. Eugene Myers , same group that collaborated for the sequencing of the human genome, which was responsible for all bioinformatics strategies.

Another group that participated in this research was Elly Tanaka, from the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna, who has studied the cellular and molecular biology of this species for several years, which together with an extensive data set of the transcriptome (collection of all genes expressed in a cell), which reveal protein coding sequences in the animal’s genome, allowed to assemble and understand the first draft of the Genome. It should be mentioned that the researcher’s team has managed to propagate and maintain one of the largest colonies of axolotls in laboratory conditions.

Another application that this sequencing will have is to influence the conservation efforts of Abystoma mexicanum , since they currently live in captive axolotls that are their natural habitat, and to be able to reintroduce these organism into the environment, an analysis has to be done. genetic variability, “meaning that organisms should not spend much time in captivity to be able to reintroduce them to their habitat”.

Dr. Alfredo Cruz, hopes that the great media reception he has had of this scientific achievement, serves to raise awareness in Mexican authorities and the population in general, on the importance of allocating resources to the conservation and study of the axolotl.

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