Methylation differs between modern people, Neandertals and Denisovans
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Extinct human cousins may have used some genes differently than modern people do, an analysis of Neandertal and Denisovan DNA reveals.
Compared with living people, Neandertals and ancient Siberians known as Denisovans had slightly different patterns of DNA methylation — a chemical modification of DNA that doesn’t change the information in genes but helps control gene activity. Evolutionary geneticist Liran Carmel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and colleagues found that the extinct hominids had lower levels of activity in a group of genes called the HOXD cluster, which governs limb growth. Low HOXD activity could account for Neandertals’ stocky build, the team reports April 17 in Science.