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The Genome of Domestic Cat Has Been Sequenced

domestic cat

Image credit: Stephan Czuratis. Finally, the genome of the domestic cat has been sequenced.

Over the past decade, genome sequencing has taken a big leap forward. Since the first bacterial genome was sequenced in year 1995, we have successfully sequenced thousands of bacterial and hundreds of eukaryotic genomes in recent two decades. Each year, the sequencing process becomes faster and less expensive. Therefore, it becomes a surprise that the genome of human’s favorite furry friend has not yet been sequenced. Now, however, such injustice has been rectified and the result might help address many essential evolutionary and medical questions.

The demostic cat (Felis catus) has actually not been entirely neglected. A cheaper method called shotgun sequencing was done in 2007, but this approach inevitably leaves gaps. The full sequencing of the moggy’s genome remains incomplete until this year. This work is achieved by an international collaboration lead by St. Petersburg State University.

The results, published in Gigascience, note that “domestic cats enjoys an extensive veterinary medical surveillance which has described about 250 genetic diseases that are analogous to human disorders”. It is possible that other mammals might also share many similar conditions with humans, however, it becomes difficult to learn about those who don’t live with us.

The feline genome is of great interest for another reason. As the authors note, it is “a highly conserved ancestral mammal genome organization”. Although other species may have altered to a great extent during the evolutionary course, cats seem to maintain what works with them. This is especially interesting since the close relationship with humans significantly changed the dogs’ genetic make-up, while cats’ hardly at all, and such difference is hard to be explained merely by the shorter time period they have been domesticated.

It is certain that every cat is different. The samples for human genome sequencing were collected from many people to protect the anonymity of those whose DNA as involved. While cats don’t have this concern. Hence, the authors report that they used the entire genome of a female Abyssinian named Cinnamon who resides in the University of Missouri. Additional analysis was performed on Boris from St. Petersburg, Russia. A Europead wildcat, Sylvester (Felis slivestris silvestris), is believed to be similar before and after domestication, and was “lightly” sequenced to offer insights on how cats have changed since domestication.

During the sequencing process, 21,865 protein-coding genes were identified and annotated, based on the comparison with other species. This represents 56% of the feline genome. These results are available in a browser called the GARfield (Genome Annotation Resource Fields).

Source: Gigascience