Asian elephant; comparative genomics; gene prediction; transcriptome
The Asian elephant Elephas maximus and the African elephant Loxodonta africana that diverged 5-7 million years ago exhibit differences in their physiology, behaviour and morphology. A comparative genomics approach would be useful and necessary for evolutionary and functional genetic studies of elephants. We performed sequencing of E. maximus and map to L. africana at ∼ 15X coverage. Through comparative sequence analyses, we have identified Asian elephant specific homozygous, non-synonymous single nucleotide variants (SNVs) that map to 1514 protein coding genes, many of which are involved in olfaction. We also present the first report of a high-coverage transcriptome sequence in E. maximus from peripheral blood lymphocytes. We have identified 103 novel protein coding transcripts and 66-long non-coding (Inc)RNAs. We also report the presence of 181 protein domains unique to elephants when compared to other Afrotheria species. Each of these findings can be further investigated to gain a better understanding of functional differences unique to elephant species, as well as those unique to elephantids in comparison with other mammals. This work therefore provides a valuable resource to explore the immense research potential of comparative analyses of transcriptome and genome sequences in the Asian elephant.