Grant Will Increase Knowledge of Water Buffalo Genome

PULLMAN, Wash — Zhihua Jiang, associate professor of animal sciences at Washington State University, has received a three-year $60,000 grant from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service and U.S.-Egypt Joint Science and Technology Board to study the genome of water buffalo.

“The bovine genome has been sequenced,” Jiang said, “but there’s not much information on water buffalo. It is an important species to developing countries.”

In large parts of the developing world, domesticated water buffalos serve as draught animals for small farmers. They also are a source of milk for cheese, low cholesterol meat, leather and fertilizer.

The long-term goal of the project is to develop comparative genomics reagents/tools for determining gene sequence, location, expression and function to optimize the reproduction efficiency, nutritional value, disease resistance and more of water buffalo.

“We will collaborate with the University of Cairo on this project,” Jiang said.

Jiang’s research focuses on comparative genome biology. “We look at economically important genes for marbling in beef cattle, fertility in dairy cattle.”

He has identified genetic markers and genes in beef cattle that are associated with marbling and subcutaneous fat that translate into flavor, tenderness and juiciness. Greater marbling can translate into the higher returns for producers. He also has identified one gene in dairy cattle that has significant effects on fertility and longevity in dairy cattle. Decline in reproductive efficiency is a world-wide problem.

Jiang’s work has attracted international interest. Over the past five years, his lab has attracted 10 visiting scientist from India, Slovenia, and the People’s Republic of China to learn advanced techniques in genomics, bioinformatics and biotechnology.