Lab Canada

Bovine genome data released into public databases

Vancouver, BC – Researchers from the Bovine Genome Sequencing Project have released a comprehensive set of genome resources into freely accessible international public databases. These new assets for bovine researchers include the most complete and accurate genome sequence to date, an upgraded genetic map, and a new set of two million DNA base differences for use as DNA sequence polymorphisms.

The bovine genome sequence will aid agricultural researchers to improve health and disease management of cattle and enhance the nutritional value of beef and dairy products. Medical researchers will also use the bovine information to interpret the human genome and thereby develop better ways of treating and preventing disease. Sequencing of the bovine genome began in December 2003. With the release of this new data, the project now moves into the final analysis phase. The new genome sequence is 2.9 billion DNA base pairs, similar to the human and other mammalian genomes but incorporating about one-third more data than earlier versions.

Genome Canada, through Genome BC, is a significant contributor to the US$53 million international effort to sequence the genome of the cow (Bos taurus). The bovine genome sequencing was performed at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston (BCM-HGSC). The new information derives from sequencing 20,000 clones containing large pieces of bovine DNA (BACs), created at the BACPAC Resource Center at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, California and mapped at BC Cancer Agencys Genome Sciences Centre (established with support from the BC Cancer Foundation), under the leadership of Dr Marco Marra.

The economy, both in Canada, the US, and Europe, has recently been and still is affected by the occurrence of mad cow disease. Research in this field is therefore imperative to better understand the disease and other infectious diseases affecting cattle, says Dr Michael Morgan, chief scientific officer at Genome Canada. Our involvement in this international research effort and in particular the work done by Dr Marras team in mapping the genome will help us overcome the challenges faced by this crucial industry.

Sequencing of additional genes and genomes will improve our understanding of human gene structure, says Dr Marra. “Our research into other mammal genomes provides important comparative tools for discovery of new human gene regulatory elements and other factors controlling human gene expression.”

The use of the BAC data allows a more structured assembly of DNA sequences into a complete genome, more effectively addressing challenges posed by repeated sequences. New techniques developed at the BCM-HGSC allowed the BACs to be sequenced in groups rather than individually, reducing both cost and effort. The new high-quality bovine sequence, which comprises 95% of the genome, will allow researchers to make accurate gene predictions and evolutionary comparisons for this important animal.

Researchers can access the sequence data through the following public databases: the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center (, GenBank ( at NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), EMBL Bank ( at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s Nucleotide Sequence Database and the DNA Data Bank of Japan ( The data will also be viewable through NCBI’s Map Viewer (, UCSC Genome Browser ( at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Ensemble Genome Browser ( at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.