Old Deer, New Tricks: Seabury Applies Next Generation Sequencing to the White-Tailed Deer
Posted March 22, 2011
COLLEGE STATION, TX - Together with
his team of scientists, Dr. Christopher M. Seabury, assistant
professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine &
Biomedical Sciences (CVM), utilized next generation sequencing
technologies to develop a working comparative knowledge of the
white-tailed deer genome. Their work entitled, "Genome-Wide
Polymorphism and Comparative Analyses in the White-tailed Deer
(Odocoileus virginianus): A Model for Conservation Genomics" was
recently published in PLoS ONE, and included a complete
mitochondrial genome sequence assembly as well as a survey of
nuclear genome sequences from both southern and northern
Prior to Seabury's publication, no
large-scale genomics research had ever been established for this
species, which in part was due to inadequate competitive research
funding. Seabury and his team strongly believe in the
importance of developing species-specific genomic tools and
resources for the white-tailed deer, such that studies may develop
without having to rely upon technologies and resources borrowed
from domestic cattle and sheep. Notably, Seabury's vigor and
interest is primarily driven by burgeoning wild and captive
white-tailed deer populations at the state and national level, a
strong economic impact surrounding white-tailed deer related to
agribusiness, and a myriad of interesting biological
characteristics such as adaptability, fecundity, and differential
susceptibility to disease.
Relevant to Seabury's recent study, a
2007 study by agricultural economists from Texas A&M determined
that farmed white-tailed deer ranked sixth in agricultural
products, bringing in $652 million to the Texas economy, with a
national economic impact in excess of $3 billion. White-tailed deer
are truly a unique species because they occur as both free ranging
wildlife species, and captively propagated agricultural species.
Given the obvious economic impact of activities related to
white-tailed deer, researchers determined that the species will be
a major agricultural player in the years to come.
In addition to the obvious utility of
Seabury's research where white-tailed deer are concerned, he also
had this to say, "The research represented by this publication
provides a cost-effective template for rapidly developing novel and
sophisticated genomics research programs for species that don't
receive a lot of funding……the so-called minor species," explains
His research also demonstrates that
one principal investigator and a small team of scientists can
provoke significant progress in historically underfunded species by
developing tools, resources, and methodologies that would enable
such progress. Moreover, it should be noted that the entire
deer project was carried out by a single laboratory, with one
computer in Seabury's office.
Seabury and his team hope that this
research will be useful to the management of both free ranging and
captive populations of white-tailed deer; which should positively
impact both breeders and molecular ecologists. Importantly, his
workflow can be applied to other species where funding is limited.
As more information and tools become available for underfunded
species, Seabury anticipates that his work will help to precipitate
additional funding for the white-tailed deer as well as other
important non-model species.
"It's not just the deer resources and
analyses, but the method and workflow that can be utilized for any
wildlife or minor species," states Seabury. "We literally took
white-tailed deer genomics from a casual conversation with no
tangible resources, to a sophisticated research program with
thousands of deer-specific genetic markers and comparative genome
annotation in a very swift fashion."
Seabury and his team enlisted help
from Dr. Don Davis, the Texas Deer Association (TDA), and the Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department who provided access to DNA resources
from both captive and free ranging deer.
Dr. Dick Cain, representative from the
TDA, states that TDA's relationship with Texas A&M has been
long standing, and he is especially excited about the recent
publication produced by Seabury and his team.
"We at the TDA are excited about the
potential Seabury's cutting-edge research has on our industry,"
says Cain. "His research will give a complete genetic map of
white-tailed deer, will provide the opportunity to help with
reproduction, will facilitate in eliminating transmissible
diseases, and provide support in treatment of disease. It holds
great promise, and as a tremendous contribution to our industry it
will change the way we breed deer in the future."
"This paper, which utilizes
cutting-edge biotechnology and computing, will forever change how
we approach genomic research with respect to historically
underfunded species, and make large-scale genomics possible for
groups with very modest research budgets, including developing
countries, thereby enabling sophisticated research in many new
species," explains Seabury.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
↑ Back to Top
« Back to Press Releases