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Genetics MOOving Forward

Genetics MOOving Forward

Sifting through 4.6 pallets of paper with different series of the letters A, T, G and C in search of a particular sequence would be exhausting.

Luckily, researchers are doing that dirty work for us. Megan Rolf, assistant professor of animal science, said there are about 3 billion base pairs of DNA in the bovine genome.

“These bases code for amino acid sequences that make up the proteins that do everything from operate standard biological processes that keep us alive to determine coat color in cattle,” Rolf said. “Small changes in the DNA sequence, anything from a single base change to an insertion or deletion of DNA sequence, can cause a change in the way an animal appears or how efficiently their body processes work.”

These changes also affect performance traits that are economically important in the beef industry, such as weaning weight or carcass traits. While genomic sequencing is not yet a practice commonly commissioned by producers like genotyping is, several beef breed associations have taken a lead in beginning to sequence influential sires in their respective breeds.

“The fact that breed associations are taking a lead in sequencing highly influential bulls in a breed shows a lot of confidence in genomics and makes them well-positioned for increasing the utility of genotyping technologies for producers,” she said.

Mutations can have positive or negative effects on economically important traits, so information from sequencing can help researchers understand the links between genotype and biological function.

“Sequencing also may help in continued efforts to identify causal mutations,” said Rolf.

“Knowing the actual causal mutations that result in different phenotypes would decrease genotyping costs for producers and increase the accuracy of genomic predictions generated from these data by breed associations, researchers and DNA-testing companies.”

-SH

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