Atlas of cattle genes sheds light on key traits

A revised catalogue of cattle DNA highlights genes linked to important livestock characteristics.

Scientists have created a detailed library of genes in cattle, in a development that aids understanding of key inherited traits linked to animal health and productivity.

The results include insight into a range of genes and their influence on tissues and cell types, underscoring the genetic basis of 45 key traits including fertility, milk production and growth.

Better understanding of the genetics underlying complex traits will support scientific research and enable selective breeding in the livestock production industry.

Diverse breadth

Researchers built the genome atlas using samples from almost 100 tissue and cell types, from which they detailed the sequence of more than 700 sections of genetic code.

The atlas may be used to add novel insight to genetic analysis of individuals or populations, pinpointing relevant tissues and cell types for traits of interest.

The findings will also enable researchers to better anticipate cattle’s likely response to changing environments and to domestication.

Upgraded reference

The reference work builds on a gene expression atlas from a decade ago, which was based on the genetic code of a single cow. The latest atlas uses a detailed approach to describing the genetic material, enabling researchers to examine more genes than before.

Researchers from the Roslin Institute carried out the work in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland, the University of Edinburgh, and China Agricultural University. Their study is published in Genome Research.

“We hope this gene atlas can be a go-to source for gene-based improvement in livestock. We believe that other scientists and the cattle industry will find the atlas useful for understanding the biological and genetic basis of agronomic traits, to deliver benefits in breeding selection.”

Professor Albert Tenesa, Personal chair of Quantitative Genetics, the Roslin Institute

“This is the largest public collection of bovine genes in an atlas to date. It will function as an example for ongoing genome annotation efforts in domesticated animals.”

Dr George Liu, Research Biologist, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **