In the past 10 years research in my laboratory has focused on generation of genomic tools to enable analysis of genome function and facilitate detection of naturally occurring variation in livestock affecting a variety of functions with impact on food animal production. We played significant roles in development of genome maps of cattle, swine, and sheep, and in development of resources such as Bacterial and Yeast Artificial Chromosome libraries, Expressed Sequence Tag databases, and full-length protein- coding mRNA sequences. These resources were a key component leading to selection of cattle as a species for complete genome sequencing, which now has opened the door for much more detailed analysis of genome function and evolution among mammals.
With the bovine draft genome sequence in hand, and development of databases of DNA sequence variation across the genome, we can now turn our attention to leveraging the investment in genome sequence to improve our understanding of the impact and interplay of the genome and the production environment.
Current research in my laboratory has two principal goals, which are 1) identification of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers having predictive merit for production and meat quality traits in cattle, and 2) annotation of functional aspects of the bovine genome. Data from genetic studies of population of cattle have identified regions of the genome carrying variation among individuals that affects production characteristics. We have been developing DNA markers that accurately track inheritance of this variation, which we hope can be added to genetic improvement programs that would thus be better able to target specific traits for improvement. In addition, we have begun studies of an emerging class of regulatory molecules encoded by the genome called micro- RNAs, short and specific RNA sequences that appear to have the capacity to act as key regulators of growth, development, and tissue homeostasis. Focus for these studies is muscle development, growth, and repair, with some preliminary studies in other areas of potential interest including disease response and reproduction.