USYAKS Helps With Genetics Discovery

Pictured on the dais are the researchers involved in this work: Drs. Edward S. Rice, Jessica Petersen, Theodore Kalbfleisch, Tim Hardy and Peter Hackett. Not pictured are Drs. Timothy Smith, Michael Heaton and Sergey Koren.

Scientists Construct New Yak Reference Genome

San Diego, January 16, 2019

Scientists, led by Dr. Timothy Smith of the USDA, presented the first chromosome-scale assembly of the yak species at the 27thAnnual Plant and Animal Genome Conference this week.

This groundbreaking work, based on a new methodology utilizing data from parents representing two species and their offspring, is a major advance not only for yak, but for the entire field of animal genetics. USDA scientists called this work “the best assembly of a mammalian genome ever.” Dr. Edward S. Rice, who presented this collaborative work at the conference, reported the new genome assembly has far fewer missing pieces than previous attempts to construct the genome of the yak, and at the same time improved the cattle genome.

USYAKS was instrumental in providing registered animals for the research. Previously, yak DNA was often mapped to the cattle reference standard, which yielded important discoveries, but also had limitations. This high-quality “map” of the entire DNA of the yak will facilitate research to understand the biology of the species and provide an improved resource to build upon current genetic testing.

Scientists joining in the work with Dr. Smith included Dr. Jessica Petersen and Dr. Edward S. Rice from University of Nebraska Lincoln, Dr. Sergey Koren from the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Mike Heaton from the USDA, and Dr. Theodore Kalbfleisch from University of Kentucky. Dr. Tim Hardy and Dr. Peter Hackett from USYAKS assisted this effort.

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