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Bioinformatics Part III

Updated on June 19, 2013

Where's the evidence??

Did humans evolve from a common ancestor with chimpanzees? Who says? Well, I'd like to decide for myself. Show me the evidence!

I've said previously that the field of bioinformatics is rapidly becoming the battleground of choice for scientists studying the origin of mankind. In this post, I'll show you how to use UCSC's Genome Browser to compare evolutionary arguments for yourself, specifically those concerning the common ancestry of chimpanzees and humans.

Genome Browser is maintained by a group out of the University of California Santa Cruz.

The browser allows you to scroll over entire chromosomes, and zoom in on a particular region, while displaying annotations added by scientists worldwide. The website itself contains a wealth of information. I’d encourage you to explore it yourself, but if you have questions as to the content and tools on the site, I can do my best to answer them!

I'd also like to point out that the genome drop-down menu includes platypus and wallaby...

Our distant cousins perhaps?

To demonstrate the user interface, I have searched in the above slide the human PAX3 gene, which we examined using Entrez's BLAST in the last post. The red circle indicates chromosomal location.

But how about a new example?

Now Featuring...

Genome Browser allows us to visually compare the human and chimpanzee versions of the GULOP pseudogene. By scrolling down, you are given access to a number of "tracks", which you can enable or disable.

I am highlighting here the primate chain track, which will allow us to visualize the chimpanzee version of this gene in the same window as the human version, which we have already pulled up.

Chimpanzee, orangutan, and rhesus monkey GULOP genes appear in shades of yellow, and by clicking on the chimpanzee version, one is able to compare the chromosomal position, as well as the sizes of the two genes.

Remember how to use BLAST? If not, check out my previous hub, Bioinformatics Part II.


Well, that's it for now! Looks like chimpanzees and humans are a little bit different at the level of the pseudogene after all! In the next part of this series, we'll look at something called an Alu sequence, and why this has evolutionary implications. For this comparison, we will also be using Genome Browser.


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