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The International Centre of Microbial Resources (CIRM), yeast collection in Grignon. © INRA, MAITRE Christophe

Genetic and biological resources

Animal resources

Animal genetic resources include species, breeds, and experimental or commercial lines that result from domestication and breeding. INRA plays a role in the national programme for the conservation of animal genetic resources, organised in close collaboration with key players in animal breeding in France.

By Communications Department, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 06/12/2018
Published on 06/13/2013

Local breeds are kept in their natural habitat to allow for hands-on management of populations with a view to preserving their genetic diversity. Managing reproduction is all-important; INRA studies and maintains animal lines, entrusting some to the French national cryobank, one of the Institute’s partners. INRA coordinates the network of BRCs for domestic animals (CRB-Anim).

The rise of genomics

Countering biodiversity erosion

The network of biological resource centres for domestic animals, CRB-Anim, a national infrastructure born of the 2012 Investments for the Future programme, is in line with INRA’s research strategy. It responds to two major challenges faced by science and society: the loss of biological diversity, especially in livestock species subject to intense breeding, and the rise of genomics. Genomics is opening up a whole new world for understanding the links between phenotypes and genotypes, and puts the wide range of phenotypes that is the result of animal domestication to good use. Researchers need easy access to characterised biological samples and tools for the cryo-preservation of biological resources. CRB-Anim also includes the BRCs related to pets, which was established by the CNRS and French national veterinary schools.

A wide variety of resources

INRA contributes to the conservation and characterisation of livestock genetic resources by research in this field, but also by selecting and storing animal lines with unique characteristics, for mammals, poultry and fish, in its experimental units. Some lines are promoted through breeding while others serve as biomedical models or, most often, models for studies in biological functions.

Male gametes and, in certain cases, embryos and somatic tissue, are frozen and stored for very old, local or endangered species, but also for animals with unique characteristics which are not bred now but may well become a precious resource in the future. INRA chairs the board of the Scientific Interest Group Cryobanque, which defines conservation strategies based on the recommendations of the same scientific committee which oversees the CRB-Anim network. As a complement to the primary Cryobank located in the Paris region, INRA also has “mirror” sites, exact duplicates for safeguarding purposes, for aviary species in Tours and pig and goat species in Rouillé. The Institute also manages a mirror aquatic site in Rennes with its partner, SYSAAF.   The development of an aquatic cryobank has also taken place within a close partnership with IFREMER for molluscs and marine fish. The Institute also makes certain collections available and contributes to working groups set up to establish the rules and regulations of sampling.

Innovative conservation techniques

The CRB-Anim project notably spurred the development of new methods of cryo-conservation for species where animal insemination is not routinely used, such as for certain mammals (donkey) but also poultry and fish. It is a question of overcoming technological stumbling blocks and improving knowledge in comparative reproduction biology. These advances lead to a diversification of conserved resources and therefore the modalities of their use. For example, progress in conserving embryonic stem cells from chicken has allowed scientists to freeze chicken embryos for the first time.   The BRC collections have been significantly enriched thanks to funding from the Investments for the Future Programme.

Since 2016, CRB-Anim has been the animal pillar of the RARe national infrastructure. Groups of experts put in place according to sector by the project have defined the criteria for inclusion in the collections, as well as additional desirable information. This work has led to the launch of a web portal granting access to all BRC collections for livestock animals as well as household pets.

The strategy for the use of collections is now a major priority of the pillar to stimulate the complementarity between in situ and ex situ management and support the evolving management of animal genetic resources.

INRA coordinates the CRB-Anim network that groups together five BRCs including three managed or co-manged by the Institute, 21 animal species, 550 000 samples (sperm, embryos, tissues, etc.) and 1.8 million DNA fragments.

Animal genetic resources: location of BRCs and cryobanks managed or co-managed by INRA and list of species managed by CRB-Anim. © INRA, INRA, Véronique Gavalda
Animal genetic resources: location of BRCs and cryobanks managed or co-managed by INRA and list of species managed by CRB-Anim © INRA, INRA, Véronique Gavalda

Scientific contact(s):

  • Michèle Tixier-Boichard
Associated Division(s):
Animal Genetics