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Animal Breeding, Genetics, & Genomics

Equine (Horse) Genome Effort

The first draft of the horse genome sequence has been deposited in public databases and is now available to biomedical and veterinary researchers worldwide. The effort was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute. For more information, contact Dr. Ernest Bailey, Coordinator, Equine Genome Committee, National Animal Genome Research Program.

The horse is primarily a pet and sport animal with significant economic impact among the livestock species. The major concerns for horse breeders and owners are animal health, performance, and physical characteristics. The equine genome analyses will develop critical resources, including an advanced gene map to identify genes and mutations responsible for inherited equine diseases and disorders and to formulate approaches for diagnostics, therapies, and disease prevention.

Understanding the equine genome will allow researchers to discover genes associated with significant traits, such as fertility, disease resistance, coat color, athletic performance, etc., and to use functional genomic approaches to learn how genes might regulate disease.

The first federally funded U.S. project on equine genomics was initiated in 1998. Within just 10 years, considerable progress has been made in studying the structure and organization of the equine genome. With synteny, genetic linkage, radiation hybrid, cytogenetic and comparative maps presently generated for all equine chromosomes including the Y chromosome, the map of the equine genome contains ~4,000 markers. The average resolution of the mapped markers is ~700 kb, which makes the horse gene map the densest among the domestic animal species hitherto not sequenced. This map is currently used by researchers worldwide to discover genes associated with various traits of significance in the horse including overall health, disease resistance, reproduction, fertility, athletic performance, phenotypic characteristics like coat color, etc. The current horse gene map includes about 1,500 markers, of which at least half are specific genes or Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs). Recently, the first generation Radiation Hybrids (RH) and comparative map of the horse genome was published.

Additionally, there are reasonably good linkage, synteny, and cytogenetic maps and three Bacterial Artificial Chromosomes (BAC) libraries and 13 cDNA libraries from different tissues. Sequence information on about 5,000 EST sequences is available in various databases. It is expected that sequence data on another 30,000 ESTs will be available.

Overall, the progress in generating the resources and essential infrastructure to analyze the equine genome has been very encouraging. In the future, this information will be extremely useful in addressing issues affecting the equine industry.

Contact: Bhanu Chowdhary, Texas A&M University.


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