USDA Scientists Complete
By Ben Hardin
January 4, 2001
Agricultural Research Service scientists
have completed a pilot project to decipher segments of cattle and swine genes,
paving the way for technologies that will help livestock breeders quickly and
accurately identify animals with superior qualities. The research also may
The scientists at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) deciphered
sequence information on 80,000 DNA segments called expressed sequence tags
(ESTs) from cattle and 40,000 from swine. All this information now is
accessible through the databases at the National Center for Biotechnology
Information (NCBI), from where researchers worldwide can access the data
for research in medicine as well as animal science.
Even before the livestock pilot project was completed, scientists with the
not-for-profit Institute for
Genomic Research (TIGR) began to perform additional analysis on the
sequence information along with data from the human genome project to predict
the function of many related livestock and human genes.
The MARC scientists produced clonal libraries of expressed genes
from a variety of tissues important to livestock growth, composition,
reproduction, animal health and food safety. These libraries will soon be made
available to other researchers through the BACPAC Resources Center at the
Childrens Hospital Oakland
Research Institute, Oakland, Calif. The cattle and swine ESTs, which the
ARS scientists deciphered, in essence represent significant parts of genes that
determine the proteins produced by certain tissues such as muscle, ovary and
Each of many genes may have a small impact on an inherited trait, but when
added together they may have great economic importance for the livestock
industry. For that reason, ARS scientists and genomics companies are working
together under Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and
Specific Cooperative Agreements to develop technologies such as microarrays.
Also called gene chips, microarrays can be used to monitor activity of
thousands of genes in a single experiment.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency in the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contact: Timothy P. Smith, ARS
Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research
Center, Clay Center, Neb.; phone (402) 762-4366, fax (402) 762-4390,