For first time, IISER researchers unravel genetic makeup of 4 native Indian cow breeds

PTI, Jan 31, 2023, 3:53 PM IST

Scientists at the Bhopal chapter of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research have unravelled for the first time the genetic makeup of native Indian cow breeds Kasargod Dwarf, Kasargod Kapila, Vechur, and Ongole, IISER said on Tuesday.

The genome sequencing study on the four breeds will throw more light on traits like their ability to handle heat in India and will lead to increased productivity and sustainability in the Indian cattle industry, the premier institute said in a release. The genome is like a blueprint or a set of instructions required by an organism, like a plant or animal, to live and survive. It’s made up of tiny units called genes, which contain the information needed for the organism to grow, develop, and function properly.

By understanding the genome, scientists can learn important information about the organism, like how it might be related to certain diseases or traits, said the release.

The details of the study have been published in bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”), an online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences. It has been co-authored by Dr Vineet K Sharma and his research scholars Abhisek Chakraborty, Manohar S. Bisht, Rituja Saxena, Shruti Mahajan, and Dr Joby Pulikkan.

“This research is important as till now there is no genome of Indian cows available and we are dependent on western variety Bos Taurus genome for doing any study,” Sharma, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal, told PTI.

Though the current research covered native cows found in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, the institute will do similar studies in future on cow varieties available in Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country “subject to the availability of resources and funding,” he said.

“Vechur is the world’s smallest cow with an output of two-three litres per day with less intake as compared to the normal size cows,” he said, stressing the need for genome sequencing from India’s point of view. The quality of milk is also very good and is rich in protein, he added.

Native Indian cows have special abilities that help them survive in tough conditions in India, such as being able to eat poor-quality food and being resistant to certain diseases, the institute said. “Previous studies have looked at certain traits of Indian cows, like how well they can handle hot weather, their size, and their milk type. But, because the complete genome of these unique Indian cow breeds was not known, it was difficult to understand the reasons why they have certain traits,” said the government-run institute.

Speaking about the research, Sharma said, “We have identified a specific set of genes in the native Indian cow breeds that showed sequence and structural variation compared to the genes of the western cattle species. This may provide valuable insights into how Indian breeds adapt to tropical conditions.” The genome structure can be used to improve the breeding and management of these cows, leading to increased productivity and sustainability in the Indian cattle industry, said IISER.

Sharma added, “Genome sequencing can help to preserve the genetic diversity of these native breeds, which is important for maintaining a healthy and resilient herd.” The team of researchers have also achieved the draft genome assembly of Vechur breed apart from identifying the sequence variation within dwarf and non-dwarf Bos indicus cattle breeds.

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