News Release

Why cats have 9 lives - high-quality cat genome helps identify novel cause of dwarfism

The genome study also revealed genes linked to other diseases and provides the foundation for new discoveries.

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Why Cats Have 9 Lives - High-Quality Cat Genome Helps Identify Novel Cause of Dwarfism

image: A munchkin cat sitting on a table. The munchkin is a popular dwarf cat breed. view more 

Credit: Tasy Hong, Pixabay

A new and improved cat genome developed by the feline research teams at the University of Missouri and Texas A&M University has already proven to be a valuable tool for feline biomedical research by helping to confirm existing gene variants and new candidate genes underlying diseases in cats. The new findings are published October 22nd in PLOS Genetics.

The 94 million furry feline friends living in the U.S. suffer from many of the same diseases as their human caretakers. However, scientists don't have the depth of genetic tools necessary to develop new tests and treatments for cats. To help correct this deficit, a team of researchers developed a new, high-quality genome sequence from an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon, which greatly improves the ability to identify more complex DNA variants that cause diseases. They also used 54 additional cat genomes from the 99 Lives Cat Genome Project and compared them to Cinnamon's genome to identify genetic variations possibly causing disease. One of their discoveries was a gene disruption that had not previously been linked to dwarfism in humans and may in rarer cases be involved in the human form of the condition.

The new high-quality cat genome, and the genetic variants it has helped uncover, demonstrate the value of this resource for discovering genetic explanations of diseases in domestic cats. In future work, the team plans to expand the use of precision genomic medicine for cats using this resource and others, which could provide veterinarians more informative genetic screening, earlier disease detection and subsequent therapeutic options that will give better outcomes with fewer side effects. In addition, wildlife conservation research and investigations into how cats came to be domesticated and split into different breeds could also benefit from the new genome.


In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Genetics:

Citation: Buckley RM, Davis BW, Brashear WA, Farias FHG, Kuroki K, Graves T, et al. (2020) A new domestic cat genome assembly based on long sequence reads empowers feline genomic medicine and identifies a novel gene for dwarfism. PLoS Genet 16(10): e1008926.

Funding: Funding for this project has been provided in part by Nestlé Purina to pay for personnel salaries and sequencing (W.C.W. and R.M.), Wisdom Health unit of Mars Veterinary to pay for personnel salaries (L.A.L.), Zoetis to pay for RNA sequencing used in annotation (L.A.L), the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Gilbreath-McLorn endowment was used for the BioNano optical map (L.A.L.), and Winn Feline Foundation W15-008 (W.J.M.), Winn Feline Foundation/Miller Trust MT14-009 (W.J.M.) (, and Morris Animal Foundation D16FE-011 (W.J.M.) ( were all used for PacBio sequencing. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation of results, or decision to publish.

Competing Interests: The authors disclose there are no conflicts of interest. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation of results, or decision to publish.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.