• Bovine TB Resilience Traced to Key Genes

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Bovine TB Resilience Traced to Key Genes

Feb 24 2020

A new UCD led study has identified regions in cow genes that are linked with resilience to tuberculosis. Researchers at University College Dublin, in collaboration with the Roslin Institute have successfully mapped the active and inactive genes in immune cells that play a key role in countering bovine TB (bTB). These key lung cells, alveolar macrophages, are the first immune cells to encounter the bacteria that causes bTB during an infection. The bacteria modify gene activity in the cells’ chromosomes to facilitate their survival.  In order to map which genes in these cells are active or altered during infection, the team investigated all the chemical changes in the chromosomes of infected macrophages.

The new findings(1), will benefit further studies aimed at improving cattle genetics and resistance to bTB according to Professor David MacHugh, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science: “Our study will help to significantly narrow down the genomic regions of interest for breeding programmes to enhance the resilience of cattle to this important disease.”

A threat to animals and people, bTB outbreaks causes agriculture losses of up to €2.8 billion each year.

“Bovine TB is a complex disease that is a threat to both livestock and humans and which has been difficult to control in many countries,” said Dr Douglas Vernimmen, the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh. “We have used epigenomics to map regulatory elements in infected cells and most of that work was conducted at UCD, highlighting the importance of collaborating with international partners.”

The research work was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and by the European Union through the international Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG) Initiative.

(1)Published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics

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