130-year-old RNA molecules recovered from the extinct Tasmanian tiger

Mármol-Sánchez, Emilio et al. “Historical RNA expression profiles from the extinct Tasmanian tiger.” Genome research, 10.1101/gr.277663.123. 18 Jul. 2023, doi:10.1101/gr.277663.123

In our groundbreaking latest study, we have uncovered the hidden secrets of ancient RNA molecules within a preserved Tasmanian tiger specimen. This collaboration between SciLifeLab and the Centre for Palaeogenetics (CPG) at Stockholm University offers vital insights into extinct species’ transcriptomes, with implications for species resurrection and pandemic RNA virus research.

The Tasmanian tiger, once a top marsupial predator across Australia and Tasmania, faced extinction due to European colonization. Recent conservation efforts aim to resurrect this species, necessitating a deep understanding of both its genome and transcriptome.

Lead author Emilio Mármol Sánchez emphasizes the challenge of this task, saying, “Resurrecting the Tasmanian tiger or the woolly mammoth requires comprehensive knowledge of their genome and transcriptome regulation, a knowledge that’s only now emerging.”

The research team achieved a remarkable feat by sequencing the transcriptome of skin and skeletal muscle tissues from a 130-year-old Tasmanian tiger specimen preserved at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. This breakthrough led to the identification of tissue-specific gene expression patterns reminiscent of living mammals.

Marc Friedländer, an Associate Professor at Stockholm University and SciLifeLab, highlights the discovery of thylacine-specific regulatory genes, such as microRNAs, extinct for over a century.

This pioneering study opens exciting prospects for exploring the vast collections of specimens and tissues stored in museums worldwide, potentially unlocking genetic secrets of extinct species. Love Dalén, Professor of evolutionary genomics at CPG, envisions the future: “We may recover RNA from not only extinct animals but also RNA virus genomes, including those like SARS-CoV2, from museum collections.”

By combining genomics and transcriptomics, this research signals a new era in palaeogenetics, offering holistic insights beyond DNA.

Read the full study here.

Contact details:

Emilio Mármol-Sánchez, Bioinformatician in Applied Biomedicine at DDLS Data Science Node, National Bioinformatics Infrastructure Sweden (NBIS), Karolinska Institutet, phone +46 79 01 59 771, e-mail emilio.marmol@scilifelab.se

Marc R. Friedländer, Associate Professor at the Department of Molecular Biosciences, The Wenner-Gren Institute, Science for Life Laboratory, Stockholm University, phone +46 73 71 21 558, e-mail marc.friedlander@scilifelab.se

Love Dalén, Professor of Evolutionary Genomics, Centre for Palaeogenetics, Stockholm University, phone +46 70 77 72 794, e-mail love.dalen@zoologi.su.se