Crop Biotech Update

Sheep Genome Decoded

June 11, 2014

Seventy three researchers from 26 institutions and 8 years of collaboration finally led to the first complete sequence of the sheep genome. The results were published in Science elucidating the sheep's unique and specialized digestive and metabolic systems.

The researchers identified a gene (LCE7A) which represents a subfamily of the late cornified envelope (LCE) genes. The gene is expressed in the skin of sheep, cattle, and goat, but not in the rumen which is the first chamber of their complex stomach. They also discovered that LCE7A is expressed under positive selection in sheep. They believe that the expansion of these gene is associated with wool formation.

Scientists from Beijing Genome Insitute (BGI) also studied the pathway of MOGAT enzymes that might be important in wool production. They found that MOGAT2 and MOGAT3 have undergone tandem gene expression. Moreover, the enzymes were present in the sheep's skin, not in the liver where they are expressed in other species. Thus, the loss of MOGAT2 and MOGAT3 in the sheep liver may reduce the importance of the liver in metabolizing long chain fatty acids in ruminants when compared to non-ruminants.