Updated horse genome: The next EquCab off the rank

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The third version of the reference assembly of the horse genome, EquCab3.0, has been released, with 30,022 genes identified.

The freshly mapped assembly is the complete genome sequence of the Thoroughbred mare Twilight, replacing EquCab2.0.

The new assembly used cutting-edge technologies to improve the accuracy of what is described as a vital research resource.

Eight percent of the new reference assembly is said to be identical to the previous version. Just under half – 49% – has minor changes, while major changes feature in 16 percent of the assembly. More than a quarter of the assembly – 26% – is said to be new.

EquCab3.0 is the complete genome sequence of the Thoroughbred mare Twilight. 
EquCab3.0 is the complete genome sequence of the Thoroughbred mare Twilight. © Doug Antzak

The latest version of the horse genome was announced at the recent International Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego, California.

The genome is available online through the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The team that created the new assembly was led by Drs Ted Kalbfleisch, of the University of Louisville, Jamie MacLeod, of the University of Kentucky, and Ludovic Orlando, of the University of Copenhagen.

It was made possible through funding provided by a grant from the Morris Animal Foundation, supplemented with additional financial support from the individual laboratories and the USDA-NRSP8 program.

EquCab3.0 will be a critical resource for equine geneticists and equine scientists working to identify the causes and related biology of inherited traits in the horse.

Participants at the conference discussed progress towards the development of new resources for investigating mechanisms to understand how the genome functions in individual tissues of the horse.

An improved understanding of genome function will enable scientists to study complex traits as well as changes occurring as a result of disease or management, such as diet.

The Horse Genome Workshop, to be held in Italy in September, will provide scientists with an opportunity to discuss collaborative activities and report discoveries made in the last year using horse genomic tools.

The Horse Genome Workshop is an international collaboration among scientists, designed to foster cooperation to develop new genomic tools and information to investigate significant aspects of equine biology and health.

Ted Kalbfleisch, of the University of Louisville, is principal investigator in a project that will map a new reference genome for the domestic horse. Photo: University of Louisiana
Dr Ted Kalbfleisch led the EquiCab 3.0 project. © University of Louisiana
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