The first draft of the horse genome sequence was recently completed and deposited in public databases for use by biomedical and veterinary researchers around the globe. The sequence will help veterinary researchers better understand the diseases that affect horses.
The $15 million effort to sequence the approximately 2.7 billion DNA base pairs in the horse genome was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health. A team of researchers at the Broad Institute, a research collaboration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, performed the sequencing and assembly of the horse genome.
Other contributors to the project include researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany, and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, Germany. The DNA used in the sequencing effort was from a Thoroughbred mare at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Sequencing of the horse genome began in 2006, building on a 10-year collaborative effort known as the Horse Genome Project, in which an international group of scientists used genomics to address important health issues for horses. (For more background, see JAVMA, July 1, 2002, page 15).
In addition to sequencing the horse genome, researchers produced a map of horse genetic variation using DNA samples from a variety of modern and ancestral breeds. This map will provide scientists with a genome-wide view of genetic variability in horses and help them identify the genetic contributions to physical and behavioral differences, as well as to disease susceptibility.
Over the next several months, researchers plan to further improve the accuracy of the horse genome sequence and expect to deposit an even higher resolution assembly in public databases. A publication analyzing the horse genome sequence and its implications for horse population genetics is being planned.
Researchers can access the horse genome sequence data through the following public databases: GenBank (www.ncbi.nih.gov/Genbank) at NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI's Map Viewer (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov), UCSC genome browser (www.genome.ucsc.edu) at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and the Ensembl genome browser (www.ensembl.org) at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.