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NHGRI Opts for Opossum in Queue for Genome Sequencing

NEW YORK, Feb. 25 (GenomeWeb News) – The US National Human Genome Research Institute has put the South American opossum atop the list of the next organisms in line to have their genomes sequenced by the five centers of the Large-Scale Sequencing Research Network.

Three times a year, NHGRI releases a priority list of organisms in line for sequencing. The gray short-tailed opossum ( Monodelphis domestica ) is the first marsupial to be selected for sequencing by the NIH-supported consortium, beating out lobbying efforts for the kangaroo, and the platypus.

The opossum's position in the evolutionary tree provides a major reason to obtain its DNA sequence, NHGRI said in a statement. Scientists believe that opossums and humans diverged from a common ancestor some 130 million years ago, providing a midpoint on the evolutionary timeline for comparative studies involving other mammals, such as the mouse, which diverged from human 75 million years ago; and non-mammalian relatives, such as birds, which diverged from human 300 to 350 million years ago, NHGRI said. 

The other organisms next in line for sequencing include four fungi ( Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, Lodderomyces elongisporus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae),  the red flour beetle ( Tribolium castaneum ),  three species of roundworm ( Caenorhabditis remanei, Caenorhabditis japonica , and CB5161 - Caenorhabditis sp. 1 ), eight species of fruitfly ( Drosophila simulans, Drosophila yakuba, Drosophila Willistoni, Drosophila ananassae, Drosophila erecta, Drosophila grimshawi, Drosophila mojavensis and Drosophila virilis ) and the flatworm ( Schmidtea mediterranea ).
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