Over the past decade, conservation of genetic linkage groups has been shown in mammals and used to great advantage, fueling significant exchanges of gene mapping and functional information especially between the genomes of humans and mice. As human physical maps increase in resolution from chromosome bands to nucleotide sequence, comparative alignments of mouse and human regions have revealed striking similarities and surprising differences between the genomes of these two best-mapped mammalian species. Whereas, at present, very few mouse and human regions have been compared on the physical level, existing studies provide intriguing insights to genome evolution, including the observation of recent duplications and deletions of genes that may play significant roles in defining some of the biological differences between the two species. Although high-resolution conserved marker-based maps are currently available only for human and mouse, a variety of new methods and resources are speeding the development of comparative maps of additional organisms. These advances mark the first step toward establishment of the human genome as a reference map for vertebrate species, providing evolutionary and functional annotation to human sequence and vast new resources for genetic analysis of a variety of commercially, medically, and ecologically important animal models.
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