The typical domestic cat ranges in body size, weight and fur color pattern, dependent on breed type. A fascinating array of biology has endeared cats to scientists for many years. For example, knowledge of the reproductive cycles of the domestic cat have been crucial in establishing successful assisted reproduction to further conservation efforts for cheetahs, lions, tigers and several other wild cat species. The cat has proven to be a significant model organism for biomedical research, especially in infectious disease research. Numerous examples are found in the fields of neuroscience, behavioral biology, reproductive physiology and endocrinology where cat has aided human disease research. It is anticipated that access to the cat genome sequence will further our understanding of knowledge gained from their use as models of human disease as well as assist veterinary research aimed toward better domestic cat health.
The domestic cat is known to be derived from a wild relative of the 37 species of the Felidae family. Interestingly, the literature thoroughly documents cat domestication and is filled with many ancient accounts of the domesticated cat, such as the deification of cats in Egyptian culture. At present approximately 50 recognized cat breeds exist, most being moderately inbred. Cat breeds are classified by a variety of criteria, with some being derived from a mutation such as the Japanese bobtail.
The Felis catus genome will be sequenced in collaboration with Agencourt Bioscience and The Broad Institute. Currently, a 2X draft sequence assembly exists for a Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon. This Abyssinian cat DNA source originated from a colony located at the University of Missouri, courtesy of Dr. Kristina Narfstrom. From this same DNA source a new BAC library was constructed at Amplicon Express and is freely available. The planned approach will combine all whole genome shotgun plasmid, fosmid and BAC end sequences to achieve a total of 6X whole genome coverage. The McDonnell Genome Institute and National Cancer Institute-Laboratory of Genomic Diversity will jointly produce a cat draft sequence assembly. This preliminary sequence assembly will be released to the public, following an internal quality review. Funding for the sequence characterization of the domestic cat genome is being provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).