Giant Panda Genome Sequencing

The January 2010 issue of Nature features the results of the giant panda sequencing. More than 120 researchers scattered across the world are credited with the first reported de novo assembly of a large mammalian genome achieved using next-generation sequencing methods.

The research was conducted on Jinging — the female Beijing Olympics mascot. The genome consists of some 2.4 billion DNA base pairs. The high genomic diversity found in the sequence offers encouraging signs for keeping the species from extinction – only 2500 giants panda survive. The research has also uncovered that the panda has all the genes needed for a carnivorous digestive system but lacks digestive cellulase genes. Taste may also be a diet-limiting factor – pandas may not experience the umami taste associated with high-protein foods. In other words, the bamboo diet might be more dependent on its gut microbiome than its own genetic composition.

The researchers hope that, beside having now a better understanding of the Panda, their work will promote the construction of reference sequences for other animal and plant genomes in an efficient and cost-effective way.