Analysis of dog genome will provide insight into human disease

28 April 2016

An important model in studying human disease, the non-coding RNA of the canine genome is an essential starting point for evolutionary and biomedical studies – according to a new study led by the Earlham Institute (EI).

New research published today in PLOS ONE reveals an improved annotation of microRNAs in the dog genome to further understand its biological role. Providing a platform for future studies into biomedicine, evolution and the domestication of important animals including dogs, cows, horses and pigs.

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that play a crucial role in regulating gene expression in animals and plants. Using the latest dog genome assembly and small RNA sequences of nine different dog tissues including skin, blood, ovaries and testes, scientists from EI have identified 91 novel miRNAs.

This study provides a significant opportunity not only to enhance our understanding of how miRNAs regulate a variety of biological processes in an important model species for studying human diseases but can lead to further, similar research into the role that miRNAs play in animal domestication.

Lead researcher, Dr Luca Penso Dolfin from EI’s Regulatory & Environmental Genomics Group (Di Palma Group), said: “As miRNAs are so important in orchestrating a variety of cellular processes, the discovery of these 91 novel miRNAs provides a vital starting point to explore their potentially major effects on gene regulation.”

Overall, 811 miRNAs were analysed by Dr Penso-Dolfin: 91 novel microRNA sequences and 720 conserved (that is, common to other organisms). Among these conserved loci, 207 had not previously been identified as canine microRNAs.

Dr Penso-Dolfin, added: “Our results represent a clear improvement in our knowledge of the dog genome, paving the way for further research on the evolution of gene regulation, and the contribution of microRNAs to pathological conditions. We are now looking at additional data for dog and a variety of farm animals, combining microRNA discovery to the investigation of their possible role in domestication.”

The domestic dog, Canis familiaris, is the result of wolf (Canis lupus) domestication, which started around 10,000 years ago. Since then, hundreds of dog breeds have been artificially selected, leading to very high levels of morphological and behavioural variation. Having shared the environment with humans ever since its appearance, the dog has been exposed to similar pathogens and therefore represents an important model system for the study of human diseases.

The publication of the latest Canine genome build and annotation, CanFam3.1 provides an opportunity to enhance our understanding of gene regulation across tissues in the dog model system.

This study was led by EI in collaboration with the Broad Institute, US, and Uppsala University, Sweden. The paper titled: “An improved microRNA annotation of the canine genome” is published in PLOS ONE. Professor Federica Di Palma, Director of Science at EI and Dr Simon Moxon, Project Leader in the Regulatory Genomics Group at EI are joint corresponding authors.

EI is strategically funded by BBSRC and operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

Image: Gary Kramer

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact:

Hayley London

Marketing & Communications Officer, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 107

hayley.london@earlham.ac.uk

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £6.45M in 2015/2016 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.

www.earlham.ac.uk

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, BBSRC invested over £509M in world-class bioscience in 2014-15 and is the leading funder of wheat research in the UK (over £100M investment on UK wheat research in the last 10 years). We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes

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