Pig Genome Decoded
An international team of researchers has unravelled the genetic code of the domestic pig and the wild boars from which they are descended.
The genome (or complete set of genetic material) of a single Duroc female pig was sequenced and compared to genome sequences for wild boar from Europe and China and to the genome sequences of several other domesticated pigs.
The study shed light on the evolution of pigs. As in other species genes involved in immune responses are amongst the genes showing rapid evolution. The pig genome was also revealed to contain the largest repertoire of functional olfactory receptor genes amongst the mammals whose genomes have been sequenced. A sense of smell is evidently important to this scavenging animal.
The research, published in the journal Nature, confirmed that pigs have a similar number of protein-coding genes (~21,500) to other mammals, including humans, mice and cows. In a separate study published as a companion paper in BMC Biology, Roslin scientists have examined the expression of these genes in over 40 different tissues and cell types.
The comparison of the genomes of several individual pigs and the comparison of the pig genome to the human genome revealed several possible disease-causing genetic variants that extend the potential of the pig as a biomedical model.
The research was conducted under the auspices of the Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium and led by scientists at The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom, Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the University of Illinois in the United States.
The greater understanding of the genetic control of economically important traits that will be enabled by the genome sequence is likely to translate into accelerated genetic improvement in pigs.
The study involved more than 40 institutions in 12 countries and was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the European Commission, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and The Wellcome Trust.
The research also received funding from pig industry groups in Europe and the United States.
The pig industry has a track record of effective exploitation of new knowledge and technologies. The greater understanding of the genetic control of economically important traits that will be enabled by the genome sequence is likely to translate into accelerated genetic improvement in pigs.
Piglet Clones, Photo Credit: Don Hamerman
Duroc SowPhoto Credit: L. Brian Stauffer