EquCab3.0 represents the complete genome sequence for the reference horse Twilight, the Thoroughbred mare seen here. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Ernie Bailey

Scientists met at the 2018 International Plant and Animal Genome Conference, held Jan. 12-13 in San Diego, to discuss research surrounding and share new discoveries made by using the horse genome sequence.

The United States Department of Agriculture-National Research Sponsored Project 8 (USDA-NRSP8) sponsored the meeting.

At the conference researchers announced that the third version of the reference assembly of the horse genome, EquCab3.0, is now available online through the National Center for Biotechnology Information. This assembly is the complete genome sequence for the reference horse Twilight, a Thoroughbred mare.

The team that created the new assembly included:

  • Team leader Ted Kalbfleisch, PhD (University of Louisville);
  • Jamie MacLeod, VMD, PhD (University of Kentucky); and
  • Ludovic Orlando, PhD (University of Copenhagen).

It was made possible through funding provided by a grant from the Morris Animal Foundation, supplemented with additional financial support from the individual laboratories and the USDA-NRSP8 program. The new assembly used cutting-edge technologies to improve the accuracy of this vital research resource. EquCab3.0 will be a critical resource for equine geneticists and equine scientists in general working to identify the causes and related biology of horses’ inherited traits.

Participants also discussed progress towards the development of new resources for investigating mechanisms to understand how the genome functions in individual equine tissues. The work was initiated with a grant from the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and supplemented by the USDA-NRSP8 program. This effort is part of an international collaboration among the agricultural animal community known as the Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes.

The Grayson-Jockey Club project involves many researchers and is led by Carrie Finno, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, and Rebecca Bellone, PhD, of the University of California, Davis, and Jessica Petersen, PhD, of the University of Nebraska. An improved understanding of genome function will enable scientists to study complex traits as well as changes occurring as a result of disease or management (e.g. diet). This project will be a focus of a Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation workshop, taking place Sept. 12-15, 2018, in Pavia, Italy. In addition to combining data from each of these efforts to annotate the new genome assembly, scientist will discuss collaborative activities and report discoveries made in the last year using horse genomic tools.

The Horse Genome Workshop is an internationally collaboration among scientist, designed to foster cooperation to develop new genomic tools and information to investigate significant aspects of equine biology and health. More information about the workshop, its participants, and meeting activities are available at horsegenomeworkshop.com.

Author: Ernie Bailey