2nd November 2009

First draft of the pig genome

New tool for agriculture, medicine, conservation and evolution.

Sow with piglet.

Sow with piglet. <br />Photo by Scott Bauer - USDA, ARS, IS Photo Unit

A global collaborative has produced a first draft of the genome of a domesticated pig, an achievement that will lead to insights in agriculture, medicine, conservation and evolution.

A red-haired Duroc pig from a farm at the University of Illinois will now be among the growing list of domesticated animals that have had their genomes sequenced. Researchers announced the achievement today at a meeting at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England.

"The pig is a unique animal that is important for food and that is used as an animal model for human disease," said Larry Schook, a University of Illinois professor of biomedical sciences and leader of the sequencing project. "And because the native wild animals are still in existence, it is a really exciting animal to look at to learn about the genomic effects of domestication," he said.

The Duroc is one of five major breeds used in pork production around the world and is one of about 200 breeds of domesticated pigs. There are also numerous varieties of wild boar, the non-domesticated pigs that are believed to have originated in Eurasia.

The sequencing project involved an international team of scientists and genome-sequencing centres. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, formerly the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, provided £6 million (US$ 10 million) in initial funding, requiring that this be the only pig genome-sequencing project in the world, that it be a public-private partnership and a global collaborative effort, with significant financial or in-kind support from the other participating agencies and stakeholders.

The effort cost about £15 million (US$ 24.3 million), with additional support from the USDA Agricultural Research Service and many other American, Asian and European funders. (See below for a complete list). Another requirement of participation was that the findings be made public, with no proprietary interests allowed.

The draft sequence, which is about 98 per cent complete, will allow researchers to pinpoint genes that are useful to pork production or are involved in immunity or other important physiological processes in the pig. It will enhance breeding practices, offer insight into diseases that afflict pigs (and, sometimes, also humans) and will assist in efforts to preserve the global heritage of rare, endangered and wild pigs. It also will be important for the study of human health because pigs are very similar to humans in their physiology, behaviour and nutritional needs.

" We are delighted to have contributed to this important collaboration. Thanks to the immediate release of sequence data as it has been produced, the scientific impact of this research is already being felt. "

Professor Allan Bradley

"We are excited to have the swine genome sequence and anticipate this will accelerate the rate of genetic improvement in swine as the bovine sequence is impacting the dairy industry's genetic gains," said Steve Kappes, deputy administrator of Animal Production and Protection for the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

"This is a great day for the pig research community," said professor Alan Archibald, of the Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS at the University of Edinburgh. "When we launched the international pig gene mapping project almost 20 years ago, few if any of us thought a pig genome sequence was attainable or affordable."

The pig genome sequence is an essential first tool that will allow scientists to delve into the health, science and natural history of the pig, Schook said.

"This is just the end of the beginning of the process," he said. "Now we're just beginning to be able to answer a lot of questions about the pig."

"We are delighted to have contributed to this important collaboration," said Professor Allan Bradley, the Director of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which performed most of the sequencing. "This sequence provides a tool of real value in helping the research community to better understand human diseases, in particular by facilitating cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and immunological studies. Thanks to the immediate release of sequence data as it has been produced, the scientific impact of this research is already being felt."

Notes to Editors

Funding

Funding and technical support were provided by the USDA, Agence Nationale de la Recherche; European Union SABRE; the Institute for Pig Genetics, Netherlands; INRA Genescope, France; Iowa Pork Producers Association; Iowa State University; Korean National Livestock Research Institute; National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Japan; National Pork Board, U.S.; North Carolina Pork Council; North Carolina Agricultural Research Service; North Carolina State University; the University of Illinois; the UK-based Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute; the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh; the University of Illinois Livestock Genome Sequencing Initiative; and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, based in England.




The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which receives the majority of its funding from the Wellcome Trust, was founded in 1992. The Institute is responsible for the completion of the sequence of approximately one-third of the human genome as well as genomes of model organisms and more than 90 pathogen genomes. In October 2006, new funding was awarded by the Wellcome Trust to exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease.

Websites

The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.

Website

Sanger Institute Contact Information:

Don Powell Press Officer
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Hinxton, Cambs, CB10 1SA, UK

Tel +44 (0)1223 496 928
Mobile +44 (0)7753 7753 97
Fax +44 (0)1223 494 919
Email press.office@sanger.ac.uk

* quick link - http://q.sanger.ac.uk/63akwf6s