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Siberian puppy frozen in permafrost for 14,300 years gives scientists major RNA breakthrough

By Svetlana Skarbo
23 August 2019

Never before has RNA - Ribonucleic acid - sequencing been carried out from so far back in time.

Siberian puppy frozen in permafrost for 14,300 years gives scientists major RNA breakthrough 

The puppy found preserved in permafrost in Tumat in 2015 was either a wolf or a domesticated wolf-dog hybrid, scientists cannot be certain. 

In other words, this Pleistocene canid may have been an ancient pet. 

Experts can be more definite about one thing: it has given up a secret amounting to a significant scientific advance. 

Unlike DNA, RNA has a relatively short lifespan.

Yet it has been unlocked in this ancient creature from Tumat, in the Sakha Republic also known as Yakutia. 

Siberian puppy frozen in permafrost for 14,300 years gives scientists major RNA breakthrough 

It has given up a secret amounting to a significant scientific advance. 

DNA encodes the hard copy of genes, and can survive thousands of years if conditions are right. 

But RNA is seen as short-lived: it is the working copy of a gene.

DNA analysis shows what kind of genes a species had, while RNA explains which genes were working and which were silent. 

Now Dr Oliver Smith, of Copenhagen University, and his colleagues analysed the RNA from the liver, cartilage and muscle tissue of the ancient animal.

‘The scientists showed that the RNA sequenced from liver tissue of the Tumat puppy was truly representative of the animal’s RNA, with many liver-specific transcripts that matched more modern samples from both wolves and dogs,’ reported sci-news.com 

‘The canid’s transcriptome is the oldest RNA sequenced by far, surpassing the next oldest transcriptome by at least 13,000 years.’

Siberian puppy frozen in permafrost for 14,300 years gives scientists major RNA breakthrough 


Siberian puppy frozen in permafrost for 14,300 years gives scientists major RNA breakthrough 

Joint team of Russian and Korean researchers makes an autopsy of the puppy in March 2016.

Dr Smith said: ‘Ancient DNA researchers have previously been reluctant to attempt to sequence ancient RNA because it is generally more unstable than DNA, and more prone to enzymatic degradation.

‘However, following our recent successes in sequencing ancient RNA from plant material, we speculated that a well-preserved animal specimen, frozen in the permafrost, just might retain enough material to sequence..

‘To our delight, we found that not only did we find RNA from various tissues, but in some case the signal was so strong that we could distinguish between tissues in a way that makes biological sense.’

He explained: ‘Knowing that RNA acts as an intermediary between DNA and proteins, both of which are more stable, it might be tempting to ask, ‘So what?’ 

‘But we think the future of ancient RNA has great potential. 

‘For example, many of the most clinically relevant viruses around today have RNA genomes, and the RNA stage is often crucial to understanding the intricacies and complexities of gene regulation. 

‘This might have repercussions when discussing the environmental stresses and strains that drive evolution.’

The findings were originally published in the journal PLoS Biology.

Comments (5)

This happen 3 years ago.Were they going to try and clone the animal?I never catch anything like that.But if they did from the last 3 years.That would be interesting to see.
James, Alaska
10/09/2019 02:46
5
0
Was wondering what method was used to determine the age of 14,000 years ago?

That a creature would freeze to death in the severe cold is one thing, but becoming buried in the existing permafrost before any decomposition began is a totally different set of circumstances.

Would be interested in authors' views.
browncanoe, Sarnia, ON, Canada
29/08/2019 20:46
7
1
To be fair to Maureen, and as a dog owner, I can relate to the comment. Tiny beastie, died before his time. Possibly a pet / companion, You gotta love 'em, even when they are dead.
Keith B., Hythe, Kent, UK
28/08/2019 06:30
15
21
Maureen from New York - did you fall asleep with your head in the freezer again? You should get in contact with this lab. I'm sure they'd like to accomodate you meeting with this puppy and giving it a little hug. Maureen don't you ever go near a natural history museum! You'll flood the place with tears looking at all the cute little dinsosaurs/ turtles - even stuffed monkeys (sob).
Promise me.
John L, Ireland town
27/08/2019 23:27
22
17
Poor little thing...
Maureen, New York
25/08/2019 16:39
10
22
1

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