Bovine genome provides clue to mammalian evolution and to an efficient and sustanable cuttle

Researchers of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) take part in the Bovine Sequencing Project. The bovine genome, consisting of at least 22.000 genes, is more similar to that humans than that of mice or rats. Roderic Guigó (CRG) & Eduardo Eyras (GRIB - UPF/ IMIM) also signed the studies of sequencing other genomes (human, mice & rat) and now they have collaborated in this new international study published in Science

The Science journal publishes the project sequencing the bovine genome. The international consortium of researchers involved in the project hope that sequencing of the bovine genome provides new information about mammalian evolution as well as cattle-specific biology and points the way to research that could result in more sustainable ans efficient food production.

The Bovine Genome Sequencing project has involved over 300 scientists from 25 countries. Researchers of the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) & Universitat Pompeu Fabra played a major role in this project. Francisco Cámara, Tyler Alioto and  Roderic Guigó, from the CRG, contributed to the gene indentification while Roderic Guigó leaded the international team for the experimental validation of gene set. Mireya Plass and Eduardo Eyras, from the UPF, colaborated in the study of the gene structure conservation in human, mice and dog genomes. Eduardo Eyras leaded an international team for the validation of this comparative genomics work.

The cattle sequence took six years to complete, annotate and analyze. The Bovine (Cow) Genome Sequencing Project sequenced the genome of a female Hereford cow named L1 Dominette. The Hereford breed originated in England and is one of the most important food producers breed in the world. The mammals looked at previously have been laboratory animals and humans. The bovine genome sequencing is the first livestock animal genome studied.

“The future challenge will be to explore the bovine genome sequence in greater depth to fully understand the genetic basis of the evolutionary success of ruminants as this will provide opportunities to address some of the crucial issues of the present time – efficient and sustainable food production for a rapidly increasing human population,” said Dr. Richard Gibbs, director of the BCM Human Genome Sequencing Center and principal investigator on the project.

The authors concluded that the bovine genome, consisting of at least 22,000 genes , is more similar to that of humans than that of mice or rats and that most cattle chromosomes correspond to part or all of human chromosomes, although the DNA is rearranged in some areas.

The work shows that cattle and humans still share a high degree of conservation in the organization of their chromosome architectures, far more so than with humans and mice. It seems that, like humans, duplicated segments appear to have played a major role in the rearrangements of chromosomes in the cattle lineage.

Some of these rearrangements appear important to cattle biology as they impact genes involved in immunity, lactation, metabolism and digestion. These changes could help explain the amazing ability of cattle to efficiently convert low-quality forage into energy dense meat and milk, processes long exploited by man. One particular genetic rearrangement involves the histatherin gene in mammary tissue, which undergoes special regulation during lactation. It produces a novel protein in milk that has anti-microbial activity. Other gene changes result in the transfer of immunoglobulin G to milk and thus transfer innate immunity to suckling calves from their dams.

The researchers said, “Observation suggests that species-specific changes in genome organization and gene regulation may help tailor the functional components of milk to the specific needs of newborn mammals. The bovine genome project provides clue to mammalian evolution and to an efficient and sustanainable cuttle.

The Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB), hosting the CRG and the UPF, has eight Computational Genomics research groups and takes and exceptional position on this scientific field in Europe. In this context, the announced new sequencing platform in Barcelona should put our country among the top ones in the genomics field, one of the key factors in science for the XXI century.

Reference Work: The Bovine Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium, Christine G. Elsik, Ross L. Tellam, Kim Worley. “The Genome Sequence of Taurine Cattle: A Window to Rumiant Biology and Evolution”. Science, vol. 324, doi:10.1126/science.1169588 (2009).

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