Whole genome association analysis for pork quality in both cross- and pure-bred populations.

Funding Details
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Grant type: Collaborative Research and Development Grants
  • Years: 2011/12 to 2013/14
  • Total Funding: $953,074
Principle Investigator(s)

Project Summary

Understanding the genes involved in variation in complex traits in human diseases is one of the most exciting areas of biological research. This area is termed genomics. Genomics technology also offers tremendous opportunities for animal breeders, as it can provide new tools that can be used to easily and accurately select animals for traits such as meat quality and animal health. These traits are difficult or expensive to measure, or need to be addressed indirectly - for example, meat quality can only be determined post mortem so that measurements are made on relatives of potential breeding animals. The pig genome is now being sequenced and this exercise will generate large numbers of DNA markers (e.g. single nucleotide polymorphisms - SNPs) that can be used to find the genes that explain variation in such traits. This process, using tens of thousands of DNA markers, is known as whole genome association analysis. It results in the identification of DNA markers that can be used as diagnostic tools to help estimate the breeding value of an animal for these important traits and to do this early in the life of an animal. These tools increase the accuracy and rate of improvement for the traits of interest so as to be able to produce pork that better meets the changing demands of consumers. This project, a partnership between the University of Alberta and two pig breeding companies (Genesus and Hypor) will collect large numbers of measurements on commercial crossbred pigs used for pork production as well as the pure lines (equivalent to breeds) used to produce them. The samples and data collected will enable the team to make use of the new DNA tools now being generated by genome sequencing as soon as they are developed. The rich dataset and results that will be generated will provide new tools to help develop better pork products and create new opportunities to develop novel approaches for pig breeding. This team is seeking to apply the latest methods developed in human biology to create new ways of improving the competitiveness of the Canadian pig breeding and production sectors. This approach is essential if Canada is to remain one of the world leaders for the selection, production and export of healthy pigs and pork.