Horse Genome Sequence Assembled

February 8, 2007 -- Leaders of the international Horse Genome Sequencing Project have made the first draft of the equine genome sequence available to researchers worldwide.
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February 8, 2007 -- The first draft of the horse genome sequence has been deposited in public databases and is freely available for use by biomedical and veterinary researchers around the globe, leaders of the international Horse Genome Sequencing Project announced February 7.

A team led by Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Ph.D., at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., carried out the sequencing and assembly of the horse genome. The $15 million effort to sequence the approximately 2.7 billion DNA base pairs in the genome of the horse (Equus caballus) was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Approximately 300,000 Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) end sequences, which provide continuity when assembling a large genome sequence, were contributed to the horse sequencing project by Ottmar Distl, DVM, Ph.D. and Tosso Leeb, Ph.D., from the University of Veterinary Medicine, in Hanover, Germany and Helmut Blöcker, Ph.D., from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, Germany.

Sequencing of the domestic horse genome began in 2006, building upon a 10-year collaborative effort among an international group of scientists to use genomics to address important health issues for equines, known as the Horse Genome Project. The horse whose DNA was used in the sequencing effort is a Thoroughbred mare named Twilight from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Researchers obtained the DNA from a small sample of the animal's blood.

Twilight is stabled at the McConville Barn, Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, at Cornell University, with a small herd of horses that have been selected and bred for more than 25 years to study the mechanisms that prevent maternal immunological recognition and destruction of the developing fetus during mammalian pregnancy. The research, conducted by Cornell professor Doug Antczak, VMD, Ph.D., and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, has implications in reproduction, clinical organ transplantation and immune regulation.

Read more about the sequencing and creation of a map of horse genetic variation in The Jurga Report blog.