Comparative Genomics of Monodelphis domestica
The gray, short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica, has become an important model organism for basic biological and biomedical research. Despite its popularity, a dearth of information on the fundamental genetic characteristics of this species limits its utility for inquiries involving the genetic regulation of normal growth and developmental processes, and the influences of genetic variation on health-related physiologic characteristics, disease susceptibilities, and developmental anomalies. To fully realize the research potential of M. domestica, it is essential to develop genomic resources that can be used to detect, localize, and ultimately isolate and clone genes that influence normal and abnormal phenotypic variation. We are presently conducting a major NIH funded research program to construct a gene map of M. domestica that will enable the localization of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that contribute to physiologic and developmental variation in this species. This map also will provide comparative information regarding the evolution of gene synteny and linkage relationships among distantly related Australian and American marsupials, and shed light on the conservation of such relationships between marsupial and eutherian mammals. In addition to construction of the linkage map itself, our immedite objectives include determination of the physical locations and orientations of each of the autosomal linkage groups on the physical genome, and the mapping of recently identified QTLs for serum lipoprotein phenotypes.