Ground breaking findings by an international consortium of scientists who sequenced and analysed the bovine genome, could result in more sustainable food production.
The findings, published in two reports in the journal Science today, will have a profound impact on Australia's livestock industry.
CSIRO scientists were among the 300 researchers from 25 countries involved in the six-year Bovine Genome Sequencing Project designed to sequence, annotate and analyse the genome of a female Hereford cow called L1 Dominette.
The scientists discovered that the bovine genome contains 2,870 billion DNA building blocks, encoding a minimum of 22,000 genes. Of major interest to scientists are the differences in the organisation of the genes involved in lactation, reproduction, digestion and metabolism in cows compared to other mammals.
One of the lead authors of the report on the project's latest findings, CSIRO Livestock Industries researcher Dr Ross Tellam said the bovine genome has about 14,000 genes which are common to all mammals and these constitute the 'engine room' of mammalian biology.
"The team found that cows share about 80 per cent of their genes with humans, also providing us with a better understanding of the human genome," Dr Tellam said.
"One of the surprises in the analysis was that cow and human proteins have more in common than mouse and human proteins, yet it is the mouse that is often used in medical research as a model of human disease conditions."
Dr Tellam said the research provides an insight into the unique biology and evolution of ruminant animals and helps explain why they have been so successful as a species.
One of the major findings was that the cow has significant rearrangements in many of its immune genes and presumably an enhanced natural ability to defend itself from disease.
"This may be an evolutionary response to an increased risk of opportunistic in
|Contact: Lisa Palu|