Concept

Comparative genomics

Summary
Comparative genomics is a field of biological research in which the genomic features of different organisms are compared. The genomic features may include the DNA sequence, genes, gene order, regulatory sequences, and other genomic structural landmarks. In this branch of genomics, whole or large parts of genomes resulting from genome projects are compared to study basic biological similarities and differences as well as evolutionary relationships between organisms. The major principle of comparative genomics is that common features of two organisms will often be encoded within the DNA that is evolutionarily conserved between them. Therefore, comparative genomic approaches start with making some form of alignment of genome sequences and looking for orthologous sequences (sequences that share a common ancestry) in the aligned genomes and checking to what extent those sequences are conserved. Based on these, genome and molecular evolution are inferred and this may in turn be put in the context of, for example, phenotypic evolution or population genetics. Virtually started as soon as the whole genomes of two organisms became available (that is, the genomes of the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae and Mycoplasma genitalium) in 1995, comparative genomics is now a standard component of the analysis of every new genome sequence. With the explosion in the number of genome projects due to the advancements in DNA sequencing technologies, particularly the next-generation sequencing methods in late 2000s, this field has become more sophisticated, making it possible to deal with many genomes in a single study. Comparative genomics has revealed high levels of similarity between closely related organisms, such as humans and chimpanzees, and, more surprisingly, similarity between seemingly distantly related organisms, such as humans and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It has also showed the extreme diversity of the gene composition in different evolutionary lineages. See also: History of genomics Comparative genomics has a root in the comparison of virus genomes in the early 1980s.
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