Primate Genomics Initiative
“Genetic Bases for the Evolution of Human Diet”
A collaboration in progress with Greg Wray’s group, Christine Wall and Brian Hare. Funding is supported by an NSF HOMINID grant.
This research aims to integrate genetic, organismal and ecological information in order to better understand the evolution of human diet. We consider the term diet to include traits associated with the intake and processing of food, including morphological, biochemical/physiological, sensory and psychological components. These traits are particularly interesting because the diet of humans differs so markedly from that of the other great apes, and because diet affects so many aspects of organismal function. Scans for positive selection using primate genome sequences will be combined with gene expression differences between tissues and species to determine the relationship with sequence and expression changes that associate with organismal traits.
- Initiate outside collaborations with Primate Facilities and Zoos across the country to acquire primate tissues at the time of an animal’s death. Currently we have multiple requests placed for chimpanzee and macaque tissues (brain, testes, liver, kidney, muscle, adipose tissue, large intestine, small intestine, heart, lung, skin, blood and tongue).
- Use the primate tissues to extract mRNA for high-throughput sequence analysis and quantitative PCR assays to compare levels of gene expression between different species and tissues.
- Assess genes and pathways that exhibit sequence and expression differences between species for association with dietary trait differences.