The DNA of a 4-year-old female Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon has been sequenced, according to a report by Joan U. Pontius, PhD, et al, in the November 2007 issue of Genome Research, which details the first assembly, annotation, and comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome.
The genome sequence analysis is expected to lead to health benefits for domestic cats. Researchers also hope the cat genome may help in the fight against several human diseases, which is one reason why the National Human Genome Research Institute authorized the cat genome sequencing project in 2005.
Domestic cats possess over 250 naturally occurring hereditary disorders, many of which are similar to genetic pathologies in humans. Cinnamon's pedigree, for example, carries a genetic mutation that causes retinitis pigmentosa. In humans, retinitis pigmentosa affects 1 in 3,500 Americans. The domestic cat also serves as an excellent model for human infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
Cinnamon, whose lineage can be traced back several generations to Sweden, lives in a cat colony maintained at the University of Missouri-Columbia. To make sense of her raw sequence data, an international team of scientists used information from previously sequenced mammalian genomes as well as previous gene-mapping studies in cats. In doing so, they found that Cinnamon's sequences spanned about 65 percent of the gene-containing regions of the feline genome.
The similarity between the cat genome and six recently completed mammalian genomes—human, chimpanzee, mouse, rat, dog, and cow—allowed the scientists to identify 20,285 putative genes in the cat genome. Although incomplete, these genetic pictures can show scientists can reveal which DNA regions were conserved across mammalian species as they evolved from a common ancestor.