International team led by Broad Institute researchers sequenced the 2.7 billion DNA base pairs.

The first draft of the horse genome sequence has been deposited in public databases, the international Horse Genome Sequencing Project reported.

In addition to sequencing the horse genome, researchers produced a map of horse genetic variation using DNA samples from a variety of modern and ancestral breeds, including the Akel Teke, Andalusian, Arabian, Icelandic, Quarter, Standardbred, and Thoroughbred. This map, comprised of 1 million SNPs, will provide scientists with a genome-wide view of genetic variability in horses and help them identify the genetic contributions to physical and behavioral differences, as well as to disease susceptibility.

There are more than 80 known genetic conditions in horses that are genetically similar to disorders seen in humans, including musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory diseases.

The $15-million effort to sequence the approximately 2.7 billion DNA base pairs in the genome of the horse was funded by the NHGRI. A team led by Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Ph.D., at the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University carried out the sequencing and assembly of the horse genome.

Sequencing of the domestic horse genome began in 2006, building upon a 10-year collaborative effort among an international group of scientists. The horse whose DNA was used in the sequencing effort is a thoroughbred mare from Cornell University.

Researchers can access the horse genome sequence data through the GenBank at NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI); NCBI’s Map Viewer, the UCSC Genome Browser at the University of California at Santa Cruz; and the Ensembl Genome Browser at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, U.K. The data is also available from the Broad Institute.       

Over the next several months, researchers plan to further improve the accuracy of the horse genome sequence and expect to deposit an even higher resolution assembly in public databases.

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