DNA of an extinct animal has been resurrected

Poison Wolf genes work in a mouse

The Tasmanian Tiger, also called Thing Wolf, was one of the largest carnivores in Australia. © historical
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For the first time, it has been possible to resurrect the DNA of an extinct species in another living organism to a certain extent: Tasmanian tiger genes implanted by a mouse research team have been correctly read by their cell machinery and have one of the proteins thus produced triggered biological function.

Once upon a time, the Tasmanian Tiger, also called the Thatch Wolf, was the largest predator on the Australian continent. But the hunt by the man made him finish. The last specimen of this species died in 1936 in the Hobart Zoo, Australia. Now, an Australian-American team of scientists has helped at least part of him to resurrection. The researchers isolated DNA from a 100-year-old tissue sample from the wolf-wolf kept at the Victoria Museum in Melbourne. Specifically, they selected the gene Thylacine Col2a1 to infiltrate it into a mouse embryo.

Old gene in a new organism

"So far we have only been able to analyze gene sequences from extinct animals, " explains Marilyn Renfree, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Texas and lead author of the study. "This technique was developed to go one step further and study the function of an extinct gene in a whole organism."

Mouse embryo with blue stained areas of active pouch wolf protein © Pask AJ, Behringer RR, Renfree MB

The result showed that the gene was actually read from the mouse cell machinery and exercised its function. The Thylacine Col2a1 gene of the thylacine evidently performs the same tasks for cartilage and bone development as the in-house gene Col2a1.

New access to extinct lifeworld

"This is the first time DNA of an extinct species has been used to elicit a functional response in another living organism, " said Andrew Pask of the University of Melbourne. His colleague Richard Behringer of the University of Texas adds: "This research has tremendous potential for many applications, including the development of new biomedical agents, but also for a better understanding of the biology of extinct animals." Display

At a time when more and more animal and plant species are dying out all over the world, this method could help to preserve at least the genetic information about the former biodiversity. "For the species that have already died out, our method shows that access to their genetic diversity is not completely lost, " says Renfree.

(Public Library of Science, 23.05.2008 - NPO)