Animal Genomics

Group Structure

Group Leader: Armand Sánchez (UAB Full Professor)
Researchers: Josep Maria Folch, Marcel Amills, Olga Francino
Career Track Fellows: Alex Clop
Postdoctoral Researchers: Maria Ballester, Ángela Cánovas, Anna Mercadé, David Gallardo, Natalia Sastre, Arianna Manunza
PhD Students: Rayner González, Alexandra Contreras, Antonia Noce, Verónica Lucía Martínez, Anna Puig, Sarai Córdoba, Jordi Corominas, Oriol Timoneda, Ingrid Balcells, Javier Quílez, Carola Melo, Yuliaxis Ramayo
Undergrad or Master Students: Paulina Garcia, Manuel Revilla, Jorge Petroli, Marc Pons
Core Facility Research Support: Anna Castelló


Our interests are to use “omics” approaches to unravel the genetic architecture of complex traits of interest in domestic animals. In particular the Analysis of QTLs (Quantitative Trait Loci) and genes affecting economically relevant traits in pigs and, more secondarily, in goats and rabbits has been our main line of research in addition to the use of the dog as a model for the study of genetically complex diseases. Investigations in goats and rabbits have been mostly focused on the genetic analysis of milk composition and reproduction traits through candidate gene approaches, respectively. In pigs, we have generated three resource populations (Iberian x Landrace, Iberian x Meishan, Duroc) to analyze the genetic architecture of classical phenotypes (such as reproductive performance, meat quality, growth, fatness etc.) as well as others (serum lipids, fatty acid composition in muscle and backfat, mRNA expression, skatole, muscle cholesterol content etc.). We have used high throughput genotyping tools to carry GWAS analyses for a wide array of traits phenotyped in the Iberian x Landrace and Duroc populations (e.g. J Anim Sci. 90:2883). From a functional point of view we have used RNA-Seq  as a tool to explore the liver transcriptome of pigs with extreme phenotypes for intramuscular fatty acid composition. The differential gene expression analysis showed potential gene networks which affect lipid and fatty acid metabolism (BMC Genomics 13:547).

In order to gain new insights into the role of small RNAs in gene regulation and their potential impact on productive traits (including disease resistance or susceptibility to infectious diseases) we have characterized by massive sequencing the microRNAome of porcine tissues (PLoS One 8:1) as well as virally challenged (Circovirus, Aujeszky and PPA) swine. Through these approaches, we have been able to identify new relevant miRNAS regulating gene expression of pigs and their viral pathogens.

We are also interested in understanding how domestication and breed formation affected the genetic variability of pigs and goats and we have analyzed the European vs Near Eastern  contributions to the gene pool of diverse European breeds by high throughput SNP data (PloS One, 8:2).

Besides studies focused on  livestock genomics, we have also worked on the genetics of resistance/susceptibility to complex diseases in dogs, a valuable clinical model for humans. The group has participated in the FP7 EU LUPA project using GWAS approaches to identify susceptibility factors to canine Leishmaniosis (PloS One, 7:4).

Research Projects

  • Identifying polymorphic sites in the pig genome with a significant impact on the phenotypic variance of traits with an economic interest.
  • Analysing the genetic footprint of domestication and breed formation in livestock species.
  • Genetic and functional validation of causal mutations on positional candidate genes for QTLs affecting growth and meat quality in pigs
  • Gene network analysis of fatty acid composition in pigs
  • Characterization of non coding RNAs in swine
  • Genetic susceptibility to infectious diseases: the dog as a model.

Selected Publications

Canovas A., Pena R.N., Gallardo D., Ramirez O., Amills M., Quintanilla R.
Segregation of regulatory polymorphisms with effects on the gluteus medius transcriptome in a purebred pig population
(2012) PLoS ONE, vol. 7 (4): Art. Number e35583

Quilez J., Martinez V., Woolliams J.A., Sanchez A., Pong-Wong R., Kennedy L.J., Quinnell R.J., Ollier W.E., Roura X., Ferrer L., Altet L., Francino O.
Genetic control of canine leishmaniasis: genome-wide association study and genomic selection analysis.
(2012) PLoS ONE, vol. 7 (4), Art. Number e35349

Ramayo-Caldas Y., Mach N., Esteve-Codina A., Corominas J., Castello A., Ballester M., Estelle J., Ibanez-Escriche N., Fernandez A.I., Perez-Enciso M., Folch J.M.
Liver transcriptome profile in pigs with extreme phenotypes of intramuscular fatty acid composition
(2012) BMC Genomics, vol. 13 (1), Art. number 547

Timoneda O., Balcells I., Cordoba S., Castello A., Sanchez A.
Determination of reference microRNAs for relative quantification in porcine tissues.
(2012) PloS one, vol. 7 (9), Art. number e44413

Ballester, M., Cordón, R., Folch, J.M.
DAG expression: High-throughput gene expression analysis of real-time PCR data using standard curves for relative quantification
(2013) PLoS ONE, vol. 8 (11), Art. number e80385

Corominas J., Ramayo-Caldas Y., Puig-Oliveras A., Estelle J., Castello A., Alves E., Pena R.N., Ballester M., Folch J.M.
Analysis of porcine adipose tissue transcriptome reveals differences in de novo fatty acid synthesis in pigs with divergent muscle fatty acid composition
(2013) BMC Genomics, vol. 14 (1), Art. number 843

Corominas J., Ramayo-Caldas Y., Puig-Oliveras A., Perez-Montarelo D., Noguera J.L., Folch J.M., Ballester M.
Polymorphism in the ELOVL6 Gene Is Associated with a Major QTL Effect on Fatty Acid Composition in Pigs
(2013) PLoS ONE, vol. 8 (1), Art. number e53687

Manunza A., Zidi A., Yeghoyan S., Balteanu V.A., Carsai T.C., Scherbakov O., Ramirez O., Eghbalsaied S., Castello A., Mercade A., Amills M.
A High Throughput Genotyping Approach Reveals Distinctive Autosomal Genetic Signatures for European and Near Eastern Wild Boar
(2013) PLoS ONE, vol. 8 (2), Art. number e55891

Melo C., Quintanilla R., Gallardo D., Zidi A., Jordana J., Diaz I., Pena R.N., Amills M.
Association analysis with lipid traits of 2 candidate genes (LRP12 and TRIB1) mapping to a SSC4 QTL for serum triglyceride concentration in pigs
(2013) Journal of Animal Science, vol. 91 (4), pp. 1531-1537

Timoneda O., Balcells I., Nunez J.I., Egea R., Vera G., Castello A., Tomas A., Sanchez A.
miRNA Expression Profile Analysis in Kidney of Different Porcine Breeds
(2013) PLoS ONE, vol. 8 (1), Art. number e55402