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Boxer Genome Is Best in Show
By Kate Dalke

And the winner is…the boxer. This breed has been selected by the US National Human Genome Research Institute for sequencing to begin next month.

Tasha is about to join humans, mice, and fruit flies in the world of sequenced genomes.

After considering 60 breeds and 120 different dogs, a committee of NHGRI scientists chose Tasha, a boxer that lives in upstate New York. Unlike a dog show—in which grooming, obedience, and gait are prized—this contest was about genetic variation.

The Genome Institute wanted the dog with the least genetic variation in its genome, because this should make the assembly of the genome sequence easier. Compared to the other dogs, Tasha had the fewest variants.

Most of the biomedical research on dogs has been done on the beagle, but the researchers still chose the boxer.

“There was clearly a case for sequencing the beagle, but we’ve decided to sequence the dog that should give us the best readout and assembly,” says Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, who co-leads the project with Eric S. Lander at the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The scientists will also analyze regions of the genomes of 10 to 20 other breeds. These regions will be compared to Tasha’s complete genome—and to the human genome—as a way to identify genetic differences that may contribute to diseases in dog and man.

“We should know exactly what a boxer genome looks like and have a good sense of what other breeds look like too,” says Lindblad-Toh. Sequencing and assembly should take about a year.

In a separate effort, the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and Celera Genomics, both in Rockville, Maryland, have sequenced the genome of a standard poodle named Shadow.

Last September, the US National Human Genome Research Institute announced that the dog was a high-priority for sequencing, along with other animals such as the chicken and the chimp.

Tasha will follow on the heels of the chimp, whose genome sequencing should be completed in the next few weeks by the Whitehead Institute and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. The Whitehead Institute is also sequencing the genomes of a handful of fungi.

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, expect to complete the genome of a second species of fruit fly in June and the honeybee genome in July. They are also sequencing the genome of the sea urchin.

See related GNN articles
»Putting Their Best Paw Forward
»The dog, the cow, and a hairy protozoan

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