SEOUL, April 7 (Korea Bizwire) – A joint study by the African Cattle Genome Consortium – incorporating 17 research teams from nine countries including South Korea – revealed that it is genetic traits that help indigenous cattle in Africa better cope with the continent’s scorching heat, announced the Rural Development Administration on Thursday.
The joint team of researchers analyzed 37 million genetic variations, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP), in genomes of 48 indigenous African cattle.
In a comparative analysis between African breeds and other commercial cows elsewhere in the world, such as Hanwoo, Holstein, Jersey and Angus, the team discovered four genes that make them more heat tolerant.
Unlike Hanwoo or European cattle breeds, African breeds that show exceptional heat tolerance (i.e. zebu) have managed to sustain and preserve the structures of their genes related to heat shock proteins, according to officials.
In particular, the SNP in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene, which is partly responsible for heat control, was preserved at a 95-percent rate in select African cattle breeds, a trait that was not observed in other commercial cows.
In reality, the optimal temperature for raising Hanwoo is between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. For non-beef cattle, the animals’ productivity starts dropping at a temperature of 26 degrees or higher, and their growth stops at 30 degrees or higher, a temperature at which they can even perish in extreme cases.
The researchers also found genes that are related to tick resistance, milk production and resistance to sleeping sickness, which affects both humans and animals. Some 500,000 humans are infected with the insect-borne parasitic disease each year, killing 50,000.
N’Dama, a breed in northwestern Africa, was immune to the disease, with genes to control anemia and feeding behavior, subsequently overcoming the symptoms despite infection.
The RDA plans to use the results as a basis for further research on South Korean cattle breeds, and to better prepare the local livestock industry for ongoing climate change. “We’ll conduct additional genetic analysis on Hanwoo to boost their productivity using the breed’s DNA information,” an official said.
The full research findings by the international team were published in Genome Biology.
By Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)