Ever wonder what a genome looks like? While it might be impossible to see with the naked eye, an international consortium of researchers, including the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center, was able to create this circular image representing the genetic material of sheep – the first ever sequence of the sheep genome. This exploration of genetic characteristics found features that comprise their specialized digestive systems including the rumen (the first chamber of their stomach, which helps digest plant material to animal protein) and fatty acid metabolism. The team of 73 researchers (from 26 institutions across eight countries) identified highly expressed protein-coding genes that may cross-link keratins (structural proteins of hair, nails, horn, hoofs, wool and feathers – the outermost layers of the skin) at the rumen surface. Additionally, they identified changes in genes involved in lipid metabolism (fatty acids such as natural oils, waxes and steroids) and their role in wool synthesis. The sequencing efforts of the project were conducted at the Human Genome Sequencing Center with Dr. Kim Worley, professor in the Center, as the lead investigator and co-author.
The full report can be found in the latest edition of Science.