On December 12, 2003, the International Bovine Genome Sequencing Project was launched following an initial Workshop held in Montreal in June 2003. In December 2004, the International Bovine Genome Sequencing Project announced that the first draft of the bovine genome sequence had been deposited into free public databases for use by biomedical and agricultural researchers around the globe.

The bovine genome is similar in size to the genomes of humans and other mammals, containing approximately 3 billion DNA base pairs. In addition to helping medical researchers learn more about the human genome and thereby develop better ways of treating and preventing disease, the bovine genome sequence will serve as a tool for agricultural researchers striving to improve health and disease management of cattle and enhance the nutritional value of beef and dairy products.

Genome Canada, through Genome British Columbia, is a major partner of this $53 million joint international effort to sequence the genome of the cow (Bos taurus). Other major partners include the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; the state of Texas; The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia; Agritech Investments Ltd., Dairy Insight, Inc. and AgResearch Ltd., all of New Zealand; the Kleberg Foundation; and the National, Texas and South Dakota Beef Check-off Funds.

A team led by Richard Gibbs, Ph.D., at Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center in Houston carried out the sequencing and assembly of the genome. Additional work aimed at uncovering more detailed information about individual bovine genes – a process referred to as full-length cDNA sequencing – was conducted by a Canadian team led by Marco Marra, Ph.D., at the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver.

The International Bovine Genome Sequencing Program Steering committee meets through monthly conference calls. The consortium is currently coordinating the annotation of the bovine genome sequence with a goal to improving the Bovine Official Gene Set by viewing and manually editing gene models, and adding gene models that are not present in the official gene set. The first phase of the annotation ended in December 2007. A number of papers to be published as a compendium are currently in preparation.

The Canadian component of the project, funded by Genome Canada and led by scientists in British Columbia (Drs. Marco Marra, Steve Jones and Rob Holt) and Alberta (Dr. Steve Moore) ended in July 2007. Click here to view the project description.

Bovine Genomics