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Development, optimization and validation of molecular techniques for the measurement of genetic diversity in domestic ungulates


This project aims to characterise genetic diversity in domestic even-toed ungulates in Europe. We will investigate genetic variation at the individual, population, breed and species level in European cattle, sheep and goats. We also propose a more detailed evaluation of the methodologies using a few breeds and many genetic markers. This study will investigate whether there are any geographic or phenotypic characters which predict molecular genetic divergence. Such correlates can be used as 'surrogates' for genetic data to facilitate breed management. The project can therefore be seen as testing whether or how much DNA analysis will be necessary in the future.
Europe contains a large proportion of the world's domestic ungulate biodiversity.
Some breeds may possess genetic characters which, although not presently used in a commercial context, may become economically important in the future. Many breeds have been reduced to small numbers by changes in economic practice, and decisions will be necessary regarding their management. Such decisions can be made only if the genetic relationships within and among breed stocks is characterised.
The extent that different breeds and populations represent useful reservoirs of genetic variation for future commercial exploitation is an important problem. For example, domestic livestock breeds may have diverged through selection at only a small number of genes or alternatively, have in fact become extremely divergent at the whole genome level through regional differences in artificial and natural selection, genetic bottlenecks, drift and founder effect. We will address these questions and others using two of the most recent techniques that have become available, and which are likely to be the most appropriate. This will require the development of new statistical and analytical methods to fully explore the information contained within the data.
Specifically, we will; Develop a set of 120 `universal' microsatellite markers which are applicable to the study of genetic diversity in all even-toed domestic ungulates. These markers will be valuable for future diversity studies in the Community.
Characterise genetic diversity at the individual, population, breed and species level in 30 breeds of cattle and sheep and 15 breeds of goat, concentrating on major European breeds and breed types. This information will make more efficient management of domestic animal resources within the Community possible.
Further investigate the form and pattern of genetic variation in domestic ungulates using 100 microsatellite markers found on 5 chromosomes (20 per chromosome) to understand the influence of chromosomal position and linkage to quantitative trait loci (QTL). This will yield a greater understanding of genetic diversity studies that use microsatellites.
Complement our detailed analysis of 5 chromosomes using microsatellites: we will adapt a new approach to measure sequence variation using bovine cosmid clones which map to these chromosomes and which will be known to either contain or not contain QTL. This will yield a greater understanding of how past effects of selection may structure genetic diversity within breeds.
The laboratories participating in this project are well qualified and represent a balanced team which can deliver the above material objectives both efficiently and innovatively.

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CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


University of East Anglia
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University Plain
NR4 7TJ Norwich

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Participants (5)