DENVER/Jan. 23, 2024 – Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers have delved into various cat species' entire DNA sequence (genome), uncovering novel perspectives on domestic and wild cat evolution. This new work highlights distinct genetic changes and will be a critical tool for researchers investigating feline diseases and characteristics.
This study, which led to the findings published in Nature Genetics, used cutting-edge genome sequencing and assembly technologies to generate a more comprehensive and complete cat genome assembly, providing fundamental information on the feline blueprint and aiding in advancements in feline medicine.
"This is an ongoing effort because it's very difficult to fill in the missing gaps in the genome sequence, and those gaps aren't just junk," said Dr. William Murphy, the study's principal investigator and Professor of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences at Texas A&M University.
During the study, Murphy and his team identified fewer segmental duplications – duplicated blocks of genomic DNA – in cats compared to other mammal groups while also learning that numerous variances exist in feline DNA. These insights are crucial for those studying feline diseases, behavior and conservation, Murphy said.
"This initial study was just scratching the surface," Murphy said. "Now we're going to be able to use this to go in and start determining the function of parts of the domestic cat genome that were missing before."
The $202,938 grant from Morris Animal Foundation empowered Murphy and his team to leverage cutting-edge genome sequencing and assembly technologies, Murphy added.
"Without Morris Animal Foundation's funding and support for the feline genome project, we would not even be close to where we are now (to filling in the gaps)," Murphy said. "We wouldn't have had the funding to advance and use the latest technologies to get the cat genome on par with the human genome."
Murphy said that while the feline genome is not yet 100% gapless, ongoing refinements, backed by prior grants from Morris Animal Foundation, aim to achieve a comprehensive, telomere-to-telomere feline genome – essential to uncover crucial genetic information.
About Morris Animal Foundation
Morris Animal Foundation's mission is to bridge science and resources to advance the health of animals. Founded in 1948 and headquartered in Denver, it is one of the largest nonprofit animal health research organizations in the world, funding nearly $160 million in more than 3,000 critical animal health studies to date across a broad range of species. Learn more at morrisanimalfoundation.org.
Media Contact: Annie Mehl