19 November 2012

The pig genome

Pig gene discovery could help combat animal and human disease

Demographic history of wild boars

Demographic history of wild boars [doi:10.1038/nature11622]

zoom

Insights into the genetic code of pigs that reveal how the species evolved could improve the health of animals in future. Researchers compared the genome of domestic pigs with those of wild boars - from which domestic pigs are descended.

Their study found significant genetic differences between wild boar from Asia and Europe, which split from a common ancestor around a million years ago.

The mapping, sequencing and annotation teams at the Sanger Institute were key players in the international consortium to sequence and analyse the genome of the domestic pig. The results were published in Nature on Thursday 15 November.

The Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium supported the genome sequencing project, the bulk of which was carried out at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The project produced a high-quality draft sequence of a domesticated pig breed.

The scientists identified about 21,000 genes in the pig genome and compared these genes to their counterparts in human, mice, dogs, horses and cows to provide an understanding of both evolution and swine biology.

"The Sanger Institute mapping and cytogenetics, sequencing and annotation teams played a vital role in developing this important science," says Carol Churcher, who led the pig genome work at the Sanger Institute. "Our standards of sequence production have led to a high-quality genome from which our annotation team and collaborators have uncovered so much about the biology written in the pig genome."

The team discovered new details of common pig evolution after the ancestors of the domestic pig, which most resembled today's wild boars, first emerged in Southeast Asia and gradually migrated across Eurasia.

"This understanding of the genetic origins of modern pigs is important as we breed pigs to meet growing demand more efficiently and to resist old and emerging diseases," says Alan Archibald, a professor of The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh and a principle investigator on the study.

" The Sanger Institute mapping and cytogenetics, sequencing and annotation teams played a vital role in developing this important science. "

Dr Carol Churcher

Some gene families are undergoing relatively fast evolution in the domestic pig, with immune genes and olfactory genes quickly expanding. The pig has more unique olfactory genes than humans, mice or dogs, the researchers report.

And while pigs can smell a world of things humans and many other animals can't, their sense of taste is somewhat impaired.

Professor Lawrence Shook, of the University of Illinois, says: "The new analysis has important implications for agriculture, particularly since the domestic pig still has an ancestor-like wild cousin on the loose. Unlike the domestic cow, whose ancestors, the aurochs, are now extinct, the porcine lineage has a lot of genetic diversity remaining. We can easily find genes that might be still in the wild that we could use for breeding purposes today."

The new analysis also supports the use of the pig in studies of human diseases.

"In total, we found 112 positions where the porcine protein has the same amino acid that is implicated in a disease in humans," the researchers wrote.

"This knowledge will be invaluable for pig breeding and exploring fundamental questions in biology and evolution," says Professor Martien Groenen, of Wageningen University. "We identified many more gene variants implicated in human disease, further supporting the pig as a valuable biomedical model."

Some of the protein aberrations pigs share with humans are associated with obesity, diabetes, dyslexia, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, the researchers report.

The study involved more than 40 institutions in 12 countries. It was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the European Commission, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The Wellcome Trust as well as pig industry groups in Europe and the United States.

Notes to Editors

Publication details

  • Analyses of pig genomes provide insight into porcine demography and evolution.

    Groenen MA, Archibald AL, Uenishi H, Tuggle CK, Takeuchi Y, Rothschild MF, Rogel-Gaillard C, Park C, Milan D, Megens HJ, Li S, Larkin DM, Kim H, Frantz LA, Caccamo M, Ahn H, Aken BL, Anselmo A, Anthon C, Auvil L, Badaoui B, Beattie CW, Bendixen C, Berman D, Blecha F, Blomberg J, Bolund L, Bosse M, Botti S, Bujie Z, Bystrom M, Capitanu B, Carvalho-Silva D, Chardon P, Chen C, Cheng R, Choi SH, Chow W, Clark RC, Clee C, Crooijmans RP, Dawson HD, Dehais P, De Sapio F, Dibbits B, Drou N, Du ZQ, Eversole K, Fadista J, Fairley S, Faraut T, Faulkner GJ, Fowler KE, Fredholm M, Fritz E, Gilbert JG, Giuffra E, Gorodkin J, Griffin DK, Harrow JL, Hayward A, Howe K, Hu ZL, Humphray SJ, Hunt T, Hornshøj H, Jeon JT, Jern P, Jones M, Jurka J, Kanamori H, Kapetanovic R, Kim J, Kim JH, Kim KW, Kim TH, Larson G, Lee K, Lee KT, Leggett R, Lewin HA, Li Y, Liu W, Loveland JE, Lu Y, Lunney JK, Ma J, Madsen O, Mann K, Matthews L, McLaren S, Morozumi T, Murtaugh MP, Narayan J, Nguyen DT, Ni P, Oh SJ, Onteru S, Panitz F, Park EW, Park HS, Pascal G, Paudel Y, Perez-Enciso M, Ramirez-Gonzalez R, Reecy JM, Rodriguez-Zas S, Rohrer GA, Rund L, Sang Y, Schachtschneider K, Schraiber JG, Schwartz J, Scobie L, Scott C, Searle S, Servin B, Southey BR, Sperber G, Stadler P, Sweedler JV, Tafer H, Thomsen B, Wali R, Wang J, Wang J, White S, Xu X, Yerle M, Zhang G, Zhang J, Zhang J, Zhao S, Rogers J, Churcher C and Schook LB

    Nature 2012;491;7424;393-8

Funding

A full list of supporting agencies can be found at the Nature website.

Participating Centres

A full list of participating centres can be found at the Nature website.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading genome centres. Through its ability to conduct research at scale, it is able to engage in bold and long-term exploratory projects that are designed to influence and empower medical science globally. Institute research findings, generated through its own research programmes and through its leading role in international consortia, are being used to develop new diagnostics and treatments for human disease.

Website

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

Contact the Press Office

Don Powell Media and Public Relations Manager
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambs, CB10 1SA, UK

Tel +44 (0)1223 496 928
Mobile +44 (0)7753 775 397
Fax +44 (0)1223 494 919
Email press.office@sanger.ac.uk

University of Edinburgh Press Office

Tara Womersley Press and PR office
University of Edinburgh

Tel +44 0131 650 9836
Mobile +44 07791 355804
Email Tara.Womersley@ed.ac.uk

* quick link - http://q.sanger.ac.uk/a5gfm52o