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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Genomic sequencing of Pleistocene cave bears

  • Author(s): Noonan, James P.
  • Hofreiter, Michael
  • Smith, Doug
  • Priest, James R.
  • Rohland, Nadin
  • Rabeder, Gernot
  • Krause, Johannes
  • Detter, J. Chris
  • Paabo, Svante
  • Rubin, Edward M.
  • et al.

Despite the information content of genomic DNA, ancient DNA studies to date have largely been limited to amplification of mitochondrial DNA due to technical hurdles such as contamination and degradation of ancient DNAs. In this study, we describe two metagenomic libraries constructed using unamplified DNA extracted from the bones of two 40,000-year-old extinct cave bears. Analysis of ~;1 Mb of sequence from each library showed that, despite significant microbial contamination, 5.8 percent and 1.1 percent of clones in the libraries contain cave bear inserts, yielding 26,861 bp of cave bear genome sequence. Alignment of this sequence to the dog genome, the closest sequenced genome to cave bear in terms of evolutionary distance, revealed roughly the expected ratio of cave bear exons, repeats and conserved noncoding sequences. Only 0.04 percent of all clones sequenced were derived from contamination with modern human DNA. Comparison of cave bear with orthologous sequences from several modern bear species revealed the evolutionary relationship of these lineages. Using the metagenomic approach described here, we have recovered substantial quantities of mammalian genomic sequence more than twice as old as any previously reported, establishing the feasibility of ancient DNA genomic sequencing programs.

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