Marsupial chromosome DNA content and genome size assessed from flow karyotypes: invariable low autosomal GC content.
Extensive chromosome homologies revealed by cross-species chromosome painting between marsupials have suggested a high level of genome conservation during evolution. Surprisingly, it has been reported that marsupial genome sizes vary by more than 1.2 Gb between species. We have shown previously that individual chromosome sizes and GC content can be measured in flow karyotypes, and have applied this method to compare four marsupial species. Chromosome sizes and GC content were calculated for the grey short-tailed opossum (2n = 18), tammar wallaby (2n = 16), Tasmanian devil (2n = 14) and fat-tailed dunnart (2n = 14), resulting in genome sizes of 3.41, 3.31, 3.17 and 3.25 Gb, respectively. The findings under the same conditions allow a comparison between the four species, indicating that the genomes of these four species are 1-8% larger than human. We show that marsupial genomes are characterized by a low GC content invariable between autosomes and distinct from the higher GC content of the marsupial × chromosome.