Scientists have decoded the genome of the axolotl, the Mexican amphibian with a Mona Lisa smile. It has 32 billion base pairs, which makes it ten times the size of the human genome, and the largest genome ever sequenced.
The axolotl, endangered in the wild, has been bred in laboratories and studied for more than 150 years. It has the remarkable capacity to regrow amputated limbs complete with bones, muscles and nerves; to heal wounds without producing scar tissue; and even to regenerate damaged internal organs.
This salamander can heal a crushed spinal cord and have it function just like it did before it was damaged. This ability, which exists to such an extent in no other animal, makes its genes of considerable interest.
“We want to understand the huge changes in the RNA and proteins that the cells produce to change from an adult cell to a stem cell,” Dr. [Elly] Tanaka said. “How does an injury cause such a huge change? We can’t understand that without knowing how different parts of the genome are used to change how cells behave.”
The researchers have identified some of the genes involved in regeneration, and some genes that exist only in the axolotl, but there is much work still to be done.
Read full, original post: The Smiling Axolotl Hides a Secret: A Giant Genome