Pig Genome Coordination Accomplishments

January 18, 1995
Max F. Rothschild

USDA/CSREES National Pig Genome Coordinator

Map Development

The most important long term duty of the pig species coordinator is to help develop and manage the porcine gene map. A great deal of mapping data has been published in the past two years. This includes a physical gene map and genetic linkage maps. Three large linkage maps were published. These maps include the USDA-ARS linkage map with about 380 markers (Genetics 136:231-245), the Nordic map with 128 markers (Genetics 137:1089-1100) and the PiGMaP map (Mammalian Genome, 6:157-175) with 280 genes and markers. All combined these genetic linkage maps totaled about 700 genes and markers. More recently, considerable other mapping results have been reported. At the recent Beltsville meeting the USDA MARC group announced that they had over 1000 markers mapped on their map and at the PiGMaP meeting the PigMaP linkage map now exceeds 500 genes and markers. The challenge is to incorporate this information into a useable database and to develop a composite map. Several groups have now produced consensus maps from the PiGMaP, Nordic and USDA maps. All the maps are accessible through our WWW address (see database). The coordinator has been working closely with the PiGMaP and Nordic mappers in producing a consensus map. Input from interested researchers is welcome.

Database Activities

Coordination of data and the species database are essential responsibilities of the coordinator. Several new developments have taken place since last year. As part of the pig genome coordination efforts supported by the National Animal Genome Research Program, a World Wide Web (WWW) home page was established at Iowa State University to support the Pig Gene Mapping Effort. This year this has been greatly enlarged and improved. The URL, Universal Resource Locator, or "address" for this new information source is: http://www.genome.iastate.edu. Access via WWW allows users to obtain the following pieces of information: Coordinator Update, addresses of pig gene mappers, genome newsletters including Pig Genome Update and the NAPGR newsletter, information on Angenmap, meeting schedules, available microsatellite markers, PiGBASE access, USDA/ARS gene mapping information, international pig gene mapping information and graphics. More can be added.

The database PiGBASE continues to grow in both size and use by the mapping community as the editors (A. Archibald and M. Rothschild) continue to enter new papers and review existing papers for accuracy and adherence to nomenclature guidelines for the pig. The past year has seen not only the merger of the European and US databases but real growth in the materials available and their ease of use. There are now over 300 citations with 865 genes and markers listed. The list of human homologs is also growing. A node has also been added to the National Agriculture Library. With the new nodes and greater use, we have strived to make access to the database easier to use.

The new version of PiGBASE is currently under construction with a target release date in the later part of this year. The database design is constructed around the organizing concept of a locus and its position. Supporting evidence, both the mapping experiments themselves or the analyses performed to position the locus in the genome are fully documented and arranged in a modular fashion. This design concept will allow the rapid addition of new types of both mapping protocols and analysis to the database without a massive redesign. Some of the mapping methods already incorporated in the design are FISH, SSCP, RAPD, SINEPCR, PCRRFLP, DSCP and microsatellites. Not only is the database being designed to provide the user with a complete suite of textual information, but supporting images (sequence gels, FISH, etc.) will be included as available. Complicated locus topologies (i.e., microsatellites located within genes, etc.) will be accounted for and the database is designed to accommodate our increasingly complex knowledge of the pig genome. A rich array of supporting links to other databases, ranging from sequencedatabases to information about breeds will also be available.

With the new database structure in place, new graphical tools to manipulate and examine the data are being developed as well. These range from more efficient and new map displays to more flexible query generating tools. Lastly, electronic data submission will be strongly encouraged through the use of an online form. PiGBASE will continue to offer the most flexible and powerful database environment for its users. Also a new database, named TCAGdb for The Comparative Animal Genome database, is planned that will pull together the data from the single species databases for crossspecies comparisons. All this work has been supported in part by the Pig Genome Coordinator funds with considerable help from A. Archibald, Alan Hillyard, Jian Hu and Chris Mungall (BBSRC) and with funding from the UK Medical Research Council (BBSRC and the European Commission). Finally, we hope everyone in the mapping community can be involved in the evolution of the database as it develops as a central tool for genome mapping in the pig.

International Efforts

Several meetings involving scientists from around the world have been attended by myself or colleagues. These meetings had representatives from all the PiGMaP labs, the Nordic labs, Australia and Japan. At these meetings information on the pig gene mapping coordination effort in the U.S. and also the various research at all labs in the U.S. has been presented. As part of the efforts to coordinate gene mapping worldwide I have imported DNA from their reference families from Scotland, Sweden, France and the Netherlands (see section on sharing of materials). The cooperation from PiGMaP labs and map coordinators is excellent.


An important aspect of the coordinator's efforts have been to improve direct communication between members of the pig gene mapping community. We have accomplished this in several ways. This includes the following:

Shared Materials

Coordination of shared materials and information is essential to collaborative efforts. We have made a major effort to produce probes and obtain DNA for sharing. This includes:


A total of $102,500 was budgeted to support the coordination effort. The funds budgeted (spent) were as follows: salaries: $44,307 ($36,216), travel: $20,000 ($16,769), equipment: $5,000 ($4,991), Supplies, postage and other items, including shared microsatellites and conferences: $33,193 ($44,524). As it can be seen less was spent on salaries and travel and more on markers and conferences. Including funds from other sources, $35,800 was spent on microsatellite markers and nearly $6,500 was spent on conference support. Ideas for new expenditures are welcome from participating gene mapping members.

Research Priorities

Individual labs will of course set their own priorities but joint efforts in pig gene mapping may help to raise additional research funds. Some open discussion is needed on ways to continue to involve industry. There has been a special effort to visit with individuals from swine breeding companies, the swine industry and other universities not already involved in the pig gene mapping efforts. In addition, several people from labs not previously represented were added to the NRSP-8 species committee. We need to have an open and useful dialog especially as it relates to activities such as looking for quantitative trait loci for production, reproduction and health traits.

Future Activities

A great deal can be accomplished if the pig gene mappers work together. Constructive suggestions from researchers to help this coordination program grow and succeed are appreciated.

© US Pig Genome Coordination Program