Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Applications of RNA interference-based gene silencing in animal agriculture

Charles R. Long A B , Kimberly J. Tessanne A and Michael C. Golding A

A Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4466, USA.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 22(1) 47-58
Published: 8 December 2009


Classical genetic selection, recently aided by genomic selection tools, has been successful in achieving remarkable progress in livestock improvement. However, genetic selection has led to decreased genetic diversity and, in some cases, acquisition of undesirable traits. In order to meet the increased demands of our expanding population, new technologies and practices must be developed that contend with zoonotic and animal disease, environmental impacts of large farming operations and the increased food and fibre production needed to feed and clothe our society. Future increases in productivity may be dependent upon the acquisition of genetic traits not currently encoded by the genomes of animals used in standard agricultural practice, thus making classical genetic selection impossible. Genetic engineering of livestock is commonly used to produce pharmaceuticals or to impart enhanced production characteristics to animals, but has also demonstrated its usefulness in producing animals with disease resistance. However, significant challenges remain because it has been more difficult to produce animals in which specific genes have been removed. It is now possible to modify livestock genomes to block expression of endogenous and exogenous genes (such as those expressed following virus infection). In the present review, we discuss mechanisms of silencing gene expression via the biology of RNA interference (RNAi), the technology of activating the RNAi pathway and the application of this technology to enhance livestock production through increased production efficiency and prevention of disease. An increased demand for sustainable food production is at the forefront of scientific challenges and RNAi technology will undoubtedly play a key role.

Additional keywords: disease resistance, lentivirus, livestock, transgenic.


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