Israeli scientists have discovered a gene that determines the concentration of protein found in cow’s milk, and plan to use that finding to spur the production of higher-protein milk in dairy herds all over the world.

A team, headed by Dr. Micha Ron of the Volcani Research Institute, found that a cattle gene called ABCG2 is responsible for the amount of protein found in milk, and that one version of that gene boosts protein concentration by 10 percent.

The researchers first discovered the mutation in two Israeli Holstein bulls, one of them, named Goliath. The study, soon to be published in the scientific journal Genome Research, was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Illinois.

It marks the first time a gene responsible for protein content in cow milk has been found – and only the second discovery of a gene linked to cow milk production. (The first, identified recently by a German-Belgian team, affects the fat content of milk.)

“We’ve been searching for this gene for 10 years,” said Ron, a molecular geneticist at the government Agricultural Research Organization of the Volcani Institute, who presented the findings at Israel’s annual Cattle Research Conference in Jerusalem earlier this month.

By Leora Eren Frucht

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