Luiz Brito's Lab

About the lab

Our Lab focuses on complex traits associated with animal behavior and welfare, environmental efficiency and adaptation to challenging environments. Our long-term research goals are to integrate different data sources (pedigree, phenotypic and comprehensive “-omics”-derived data) to better understand the genetic basis underlying the phenotypic variability observed in these traits. We work towards the development of selection methods and approaches to enable efficient incorporation of these traits into livestock breeding programs, while maintaining enough populational genetic diversity. We work across livestock species, including the development of genomic approaches applied to breeding of minor species (e.g., alpacas, buffaloes, sheep, goats) as well as in small-holder production systems.

Featured projects (1)

To develop novel indicators of livestock behavior and welfare that can be employed in commercial breeding programs, understand their genetic background, and assess their genomic predictive ability in livestock populations.

Featured research (19)

Background Genetic progress for fertility and reproduction traits in dairy cattle has been limited due to the low heritability of most indicator traits. Moreover, most of the quantitative trait loci (QTL) and candidate genes associated with these traits remain unknown. In this study, we used 5.6 million imputed DNA sequence variants (single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs) for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of 18 fertility and reproduction traits in Holstein cattle. Aiming to identify pleiotropic variants and increase detection power, multiple-trait analyses were performed using a method to efficiently combine the estimated SNP effects of single-trait GWAS based on a chi-square statistic. Results There were 87, 72, and 84 significant SNPs identified for heifer, cow, and sire traits, respectively, which showed a wide and distinct distribution across the genome, suggesting that they have relatively distinct polygenic nature. The biological functions of immune response and fatty acid metabolism were significantly enriched for the 184 and 124 positional candidate genes identified for heifer and cow traits, respectively. No known biological function was significantly enriched for the 147 positional candidate genes found for sire traits. The most important chromosomes that had three or more significant QTL identified are BTA22 and BTA23 for heifer traits, BTA8 and BTA17 for cow traits, and BTA4, BTA7, BTA17, BTA22, BTA25, and BTA28 for sire traits. Several novel and biologically important positional candidate genes were strongly suggested for heifer (SOD2, WTAP, DLEC1, PFKFB4, TRIM27, HECW1, DNAH17, and ADAM3A), cow (ANXA1, PCSK5, SPESP1, and JMJD1C), and sire (ELMO1, CFAP70, SOX30, DGCR8, SEPTIN14, PAPOLB, JMJD1C, and NELL2) traits. Conclusions These findings contribute to better understand the underlying biological mechanisms of fertility and reproduction traits measured in heifers, cows, and sires, which may contribute to improve genomic evaluation for these traits in dairy cattle.
Cattle temperament has been considered by farmers as a key breeding goal due to its relevance for cattlemen's safety, animal welfare, resilience, and longevity and its association with many economically important traits (e.g., production and meat quality). The definition of proper statistical models, accurate variance component estimates, and knowledge on the genetic background of the indicator trait evaluated are of great importance for accurately predicting the genetic merit of breeding animals. Therefore, 266,029 American Angus cattle with yearling temperament records (1-6 score) were used to evaluate statistical models and estimate variance components; investigate the association of sex and farm management with temperament; assess the weighted correlation of estimated breeding values for temperament and productive, reproductive efficiency and resilience traits; and perform a weighted single-step genome-wide association analysis using 69,559 animals genotyped for 54,609 single-nucleotide polymorphisms. Sex and extrinsic factors were significantly associated with temperament, including conception type, age of dam, birth season, and additional animal-human interactions. Similar results were observed among models including only the direct additive genetic effect and when adding other maternal effects. Estimated heritability of temperament was equal to 0.39 on the liability scale. Favorable genetic correlations were observed between temperament and other relevant traits, including growth, feed efficiency, meat quality, and reproductive traits. The highest approximated genetic correlations were observed between temperament and growth traits (weaning weight, 0.28; yearling weight, 0.28). Altogether, we identified 11 genomic regions, located across nine chromosomes including BTAX, explaining 3.33% of the total additive genetic variance. The candidate genes identified were enriched in pathways related to vision, which could be associated with reception of stimulus and/or cognitive abilities. This study encompasses large and diverse phenotypic, genomic, and pedigree datasets of US Angus cattle. Yearling temperament is a highly heritable and polygenic trait that can be improved through genetic selection. Direct selection for temperament is not expected to result in unfavorable responses on other relevant traits due to the favorable or low genetic correlations observed. In summary, this study contributes to a better understanding of the impact of maternal effects, extrinsic factors, and various genomic regions associated with yearling temperament in North American Angus cattle.
Behavior is a complex trait and, therefore, understanding its genetic architecture is paramount for the development of effective breeding strategies. The objective of this study was to perform traditional and weighted single-step genome-wide association studies (ssGWAS and WssGWAS, respectively) for yearling temperament (YT) in North American Angus cattle using haplotypes. Approximately 266 K YT records and 70 K animals genotyped using a 50 K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) panel were used. Linkage disequilibrium thresholds (LD) of 0.15, 0.50, and 0.80 were used to create the haploblocks, and the inclusion of non-LD-clustered SNPs (NCSNP) with the haplotypes in the genomic models was also evaluated. WssGWAS did not perform better than ssGWAS. Cattle YT was found to be a highly polygenic trait, with genes and QTL broadly distributed across the whole genome. Association studies using LD-based haplotypes should include NCSNPs and different LD thresholds to increase the likelihood of finding the relevant genomic regions affecting the trait of interest. The main candidate genes identified, i.e., ATXN10, ADAM10, VAX2, ATP6V1B1, CRISPLD1, CAPRIN1, FA2H, SPEF2, PLXNA1, and CACNA2D3, are involved in important biological processes and metabolic pathways related to behavioral traits, social interactions, and aggressiveness in cattle. Future studies should further investigate the role of these genes.
Properly quantifying environmental heat stress (HS) is still a major challenge in livestock breeding programs, especially as adverse climatic events become more common. The definition of critical periods and climatic variables to be used as the environmental gradient is a key step for genetically evaluating heat tolerance (HTol). Therefore, the main objectives of this study were to define the best critical periods and environmental variables (ENV) to evaluate HT and estimate variance components for HT in Large White pigs. The traits included in this study were ultrasound backfat thickness (BFT), ultrasound muscle depth (MDP), piglet weaning weight (WW), off-test weight (OTW), interval between farrowing (IBF), total number of piglets born (TNB), number of piglets born alive (NBA), number of piglets born dead (NBD), number of piglets weaned (WN), and weaning to estrus interval (IWE). Seven climatic variables based on public weather station data were compared based on three criteria, including the following: (1) strongest G×E estimate as measured by the slope term, (2) ENV yielding the highest theoretical accuracy of the genomic estimated breeding values (GEBV), and (3) variable yielding the highest distribution of GEBV per ENV. Relative humidity (for BFT, MDP, NBD, WN, and WW) and maximum temperature (for OTW, TNB, NBA, IBF, and IWE) are the recommended ENV based on the analyzed criteria. The acute HS (average of 30 days before the measurement date) is the critical period recommended for OTW, BFT, and MDP in the studied population. For WN, WW, IBF, and IWE, a period ranging from 34 days prior to farrowing up to weaning is recommended. For TNB, NBA, and NBD, the critical period from 20 days prior to breeding up to 30 days into gestation is recommended. The genetic correlation values indicate that the traits were largely (WN, WW, IBF, and IWE), moderately (OTW, TNB, and NBA), or weakly (MDP, BFT, and NBD) affected by G×E interactions. This study provides relevant recommendations of critical periods and climatic gradients for several traits in order to evaluate HS in Large White pigs. These observations demonstrate that HT in Large White pigs is heritable, and genetic progress can be achieved through genetic and genomic selection.
The level of genetic diversity in a population is inversely proportional to the linkage disequilibrium (LD) between individual single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and quantitative trait loci (QTL), leading to lower predictive ability of genomic breeding values (GEBV) in high genetically diverse populations. Haplotype-based predictions could outperform individual SNP predictions by better capturing the LD between SNP and QTL. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate the accuracy and bias of individual-SNP- and haplotype-based genomic predictions under the single-step-genomic-BLUP (ssGBLUP) approach in genetically diverse populations. We simulated purebred and composite sheep populations using literature parameters for moderate and low heritability traits. The haplotypes were created based on LD thresholds of 0.1, 0.3, and 0.6. Pseudo-SNPs from unique haplotype alleles were used to create the genomic relationship matrix (G) in the ssGBLUP analyses. Alternative scenarios were compared in which the pseudo-SNPs were combined with non-LD clustered SNPs, only pseudo-SNPs, or haplotypes fitted in a second G (two relationship matrices). The GEBV accuracies for the moderate heritability-trait scenarios fitting individual SNPs ranged from 0.41 to 0.55 and with haplotypes from 0.17 to 0.54 in the most (Ne ≅ 450) and less (Ne < 200) genetically diverse populations, respectively, and the bias fitting individual SNPs or haplotypes ranged between -0.14 and -0.08 and from -0.62 to -0.08, respectively. For the low heritability-trait scenarios, the GEBV accuracies fitting individual SNPs ranged from 0.24 to 0.32, and fitting haplotypes it ranged from 0.11 to 0.32 in the more (Ne ≅ 250) and less (Ne ≅ 100) genetically diverse populations, respectively, and the bias ranged between -0.36 and -0.32 and from -0.78 to -0.33 fitting individual SNPs or haplotypes, respectively. The lowest accuracies and largest biases were observed fitting only pseudo-SNPs from blocks constructed with LD threshold of 0.3 (P < 0.05), whereas the best results were obtained using only SNPs or the combination of independent SNPs and pseudo-SNPs in one or two G matrices; in both heritability levels and all populations regardless of the level of genetic diversity. In summary, haplotype-based models did not improve the performance of genomic predictions in genetically diverse populations.

Lab head

Luiz Fernando Brito
  • Department of Animal Sciences
About Luiz Fernando Brito
  • Luiz Brito has an honours bachelor’s degree in Animal Science (2010) and a Master of Science (2012) in Genetics and Animal Breeding from the Federal University of Viçosa, Brazil. He completed his PhD in Aug/2016 at The University of Guelph (Canada) and conducted part of his PhD research at AgResearch (New Zealand) and CSIRO (Australia). He did a 2-years post-doc at The Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock (CGIL), University of Guelph. In August 2018 he joined Purdue University as an Assistant Professor of Quantitative Genetics and Genomics:

Members (13)

Shi-Yi Chen
  • Sichuan Agricultural University
Leonardo Glória
  • Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense
Laís Grigoletto
  • ABS Global, Inc.
Artur Oliveira Rocha
  • Purdue University
Amanda Botelho Alvarenga
  • Purdue University
André Campêlo Araujo
  • Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia
Rick Hernandez
  • Purdue University
Kristen N Cleaver
Kristen N Cleaver
  • Not confirmed yet