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Reprod Suppl. 2001;58:277-92.

Applying functional genomics research to the study of pig reproduction.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0908, USA.


Functional genomics is an experimental approach that incorporates genome-wide or system-wide experimentation, expanding the scope of biological investigation from studying single genes to studying potentially all genes at once in a systematic manner. This technology is highly appealing because of its high throughput and relatively low cost. Furthermore, analysis of gene expression using microarrays is likely to be more biologically relevant than the conventional paradigm of reductionism, because it has the potential to uncover new biological connections between genes and biochemical pathways. However, functional genomics is still in its infancy, especially with regard to the study of pig reproduction. Currently, efforts are centred on developing the necessary resources to enable high throughput evaluation and comparison of gene expression. However, it is clear that in the near future functional genomics will be applied on a large scale to study the biology and physiology of reproduction in pigs, and to understand better the complex nature of genetic control over polygenic characteristics, such as ovulation rate and litter size. We can look forward to generating a significant amount of new data on differences in gene expression between genotypes, treatments, or at various temporal and spatial coordinates within a variety of reproductively relevant systems. Along with this capability will be the challenge of collating, analysing and interpreting datasets that are orders of magnitude more extensive and complex than those currently used. Furthermore, integration of functional genomics with traditional genetic approaches and with detailed analysis of the proteome and relevant whole animal phenotypes will be required to make full use of this powerful new experimental paradigm as a beneficial research tool.

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