"When compared with the genomes of human and other important organisms, the dog genome provides a powerful tool for identifying genetic factors that contribute to human health and disease," said Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which supported the research. "This milestone is especially gratifying because it will also directly benefit veterinary researchers' efforts to better understand and treat diseases afflicting our loyal canine companions."
Efforts to create the genetic tools needed for mapping disease genes in dogs have gained momentum over the last 15 years, and already include a partial survey of the poodle genome. More than two years ago, Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Ph.D., co-director of the genome sequencing and analysis program at the Broad Institute, and her colleagues embarked on a two-part project to assemble a complete map of the dog genome.
In the first phase, they acquired high-quality DNA sequence covering nearly 99 percent of the dog genome, from a female boxer named Tasha. The boxer was chosen as a representative of the average purebred dog to produce what has become a reference sequence for the dog genome community. Using the sequence information as a genetic "compass," they navigated the genomes of 10 different dog breeds and other related canine species, including the gray wolf and coyote. In this sampling, they pinpointed tiny spots of genetic variation, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which serve as recognizable signposts that can be used to locate the causes of genetic disease.