Monkey business

The Japanese macaque is the northernmost-living nonhuman primate. It is found on three of the four main Japanese islands, and lives in a variety of habitats spanning subtropical forests and subarctic forests [1]. The Japanese macaque has featured prominently in culture. For example, the three wise monkeys, which warn people to “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”, are Japanese macaques [2]!


Today, we share a chromosome-length genome assembly for the Japanese macaque. This genome was created in collaboration with Michal Levy-Sakin (formerly UCSF and currently at Dovetail), Pui Kwok (UCSF), Betsy Ferguson (ONPRC) and Jeff Wall (UCSF).


See below how the chromosomes in the new genome assembly compare to those of several closely related primates: the rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta, genome assembly by the Washington University School of Medicine, shared here; crab-eating macaque Macaca fascicularis, genome assembly by the International Macaca fascicularis Genome Sequencing Consortium, shared here; and humans, by the Genome Reference Consortium, latest version available here.

Whole-genome alignments of the new Japanese macaque genome assembly (Macaca_fuscata_HiC) to several previously assembled primate species: rhesus macaque (Mmul_10, ~0.5MY to common ancestor), crab-eating macaque (Macaca_fascicularis_5.0, ~1MY to common ancestor) and human (GRCh38, ~25MY to common ancestor).

It is worth pointing out that homologies in human and Japanese macaque chromosomes have been previously studies by microscopy methods, see (Weinberg et al., 1992). We copy their results below for comparison. It is easy to see that homologies calculated from genome assemblies are in agreement with the predictions made by microscopy. The assembly comparison however offers a much more comprehensive idea of intrachromosomal rearrangements that are taking place between the two species.

Fig. 2 from Weinberg et al., 1992: Idiogramatic representation of hybridization patterns of DNA derived from human chromosomes to chromosomes of Macaca fuscata. Macaque chromosome numbers are given below each chromosome, numbers on the left indicate subregions painted with the respective human chromosome specific library.

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