Bovine genome completed

10/06/04

Researchers will now have access to the bovine genome sequence as the first draft is made available to the public--an effort that will fortify the next several decades of cattle research, leaders of the $53-million Bovine Genome Sequencing Project announced today.

Part of the work to complete this first draft of the cow's genome sequence--the first mammalian farm animal to have its genes mapped out--was completed in collaboration with the University of Alberta (U of A).

"This information is of high importance to scientists working in fields such as evolutionary biology, population genetics, comparative genomics as well as those working in livestock production science," said Dr. Stephen Moore, chair of bovine genomics at the University of Alberta and steering committee member of the international project.

The release of the first draft means that researchers can now begin analyzing the bovine genome to uncover more information about individual genes and their effect on important traits in cattle. The first draft was based on DNA taken from a Hereford, a breed of cattle used in beef production and was produced by sequencing the genome 3.3 times. The final target, which is expected to sequence the genome six times, should be completed sometime in 2005.

The initiative also plans to sequence part of the genomes of additional cattle breeds including the Holstein, Angus, Jersey, Limousin, Norwegian Red and Brahman. That information will help discover genes for improved meat and milk production and to help researchers develop new strategies for protecting cattle from disease. Medical researchers will be able to compare the cow's genome with the human genome sequence in hopes of gaining new insights into human health and disease.

The province of Alberta has already invested more than $1.5 million (Cdn) towards a second phase of the sequencing project which will help define genetic variability in the cattle populations. Moore and his research group will do this by characterizing large numbers of point mutations across the bovine genome sequence.

The Bovine Genome Sequencing Project is a $53-million US multi-institutional initiative that began in 2003. The Canadian arm of the project has invested $5 million US through Genome Canada. The province of Alberta and the Canadian beef cattle industry have funded some of the groundwork underpinning the project through Moore's group in the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics. Moore is a co-project leader on the Genome Canada-funded project--the U of A providing some of the sequencing resources, specifically cDNA libraries which will be used to characterize the bovine's genes. Other contributors to the international project include the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the State of Texas, and other international partners in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

The Bovine Genome Sequencing Project was led by a team at Baylor College of Medicine's Human Genome Sequencing Centre in Houston but many institutions across North America are contributing to the project.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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