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Determination of actual polymorphisms responsible for economic trait variation in dairy cattle

Goal: The main objectives are to determine specific polymorphisms at the DNA level responsible for observed quantitative trait loci and to estimate their effects, frequencies and selection potential in the Holstein dairy cattle breed.

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Moran Gershoni
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We performed a genetic analysis of age at first insemination, including estimation of the heritability and genetic correlations with other economic traits, and the consequences of including this trait in the Israeli selection index. The genetic factors affecting age at first insemination were determined via GWAS. Five data sets were analyzed. Data sets 1, 2, and 3 were used to compute variance components among age at first insemination, first calving age, days from first insemination to calving, and the 9 traits included in the Israel breeding index. Heritabilities for age at first insemination, calving age, and days from first insemination to calving in Israeli Holsteins as computed by REML individual animal model analyses of 273,239 Israeli Holstein cows were 0.072, 0.042, and 0.014. The estimated genetic correlation between the first 2 traits was 0.88. In addition to the fact that heritability of age at first insemination is 1.7 times the heritability for calving, the former trait has the advantage that the number of records is greater, and the records are generated earlier. Absolute values of the genetic and residual correlations between age at first insemination and the 9 traits included in the Israeli index were all less than 0.2. Data set 4 included first insemination dates of 1,181,600 calves born from 1985 through 2018. Genetic evaluations were computed by a single trait animal model. Annual phenotypic and genetic trends for age at first calving for calves born since 1985 were “positive,” that is, economically negative, at 0.320 ± 0.003 and 0.169 ± 0.005 d, respectively. Applying the GCTA-GREML software, 54% of variance in the transmitting ability of 1,585 sires could be explained by considering all 40,498 markers included in the GWAS analysis. The significant markers were mainly associated with milk production genes. The SNP UA-IFASA-8854 on chromosome 11 had the lowest probability value, 1.2 × 10⁻²⁴. This marker is located between the genes RETSAT and ELMOD3, both of which are overexpressed in human mammary glands. The gene RETSAT is reported to be essential for lipid accumulation and adipogenesis promotion. Gene enrichment analysis found that genes in the genomic region flanking significant markers are associated with vasopressin receptor activity, which was shown to mediate puberty in humans. If age at first insemination is included in the index with a weighting to account for 9% of the index, reductions of 2.8 and 2.6 d for age at first insemination and first calving age after 10 yr of selection are predicted, as compared with reductions of 1.4 and 1.1 d with the current index. Gains for the other index traits are only marginally affected. We suggest selection on age at first insemination as an alternative to selection for early calving.
Moran Gershoni
added a research item
Microarray-based genomic selection is a central tool to increase the genetic gain of economically significant traits in dairy cattle. Yet, the effectivity of this tool is slightly limited, as estimates based on genotype data only partially explain the observed heritability. In the analysis of the genomes of 17 Israeli Holstein bulls, we compared genotyping accuracy between whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and microarray-based techniques. Using the standard GATK pipeline, the short-variant discovery within sequence reads mapped to the reference genome (ARS-UCD1.2) was compared to the genotypes from Illumina BovineSNP50 BeadChip and to an alternative method, which computationally mimics the hybridization procedure by mapping reads to 50 bp spanning the BeadChip source sequences. The number of mismatches between the BeadChip and WGS genotypes was low (0.2%). However, 17,197 (40% of the informative SNPs) had extra variation within 50 bp of the targeted SNP site, which might interfere with hybridization-based genotyping. Consequently, with respect to genotyping errors, BeadChip varied significantly and systematically from WGS genotyping, introducing null allele-like effects and Mendelian errors (<0.5%), whereas the GATK algorithm of local de novo assembly of haplotypes successfully resolved the genotypes in the extra-variable regions. These findings suggest that the microarray design should avoid polymorphic genomic regions that are prone to extra variation and that WGS data may be used to resolve erroneous genotyping, which may partially explain missing heritability.
Moran Gershoni
added a research item
Background Global warming has increased the frequency of heat stress in livestock. Although heat stress directly leads to negative effects on production and reproduction traits in dairy cattle, the transgenerational transition of these changes is poorly understood. We hypothesized that heat stress in pregnant cows might induce epigenetic modifications in the developing embryo germ cells, which, in turn, might lead to phenotypic effects in the offspring. Here, we examined whether transgenerational effects of heat stress contribute to the phenotypic expression of economic traits in Israel dairy cattle. Since heat stress in Israel occurs specifically between June and October, first we examined the association of the month of birth of F 1 cows (pregnancy of the F 0 dam) with the performance of the F 2 and F 3 female offspring. Then, we calculated an annual heat stress index and examined the association of the heat stress index during the pregnancy of the F 0 dam with the performance of her F 2 and F 3 offspring. Finally, we examined intergenerational interactions of heat stress by comparing the performance of F 3 cows according to the pregnancy seasons of the F 0 and F 1 animals. Results We found a significant association of the month of birth, season of pregnancy, and heat stress index of F 0 females, with the performance of their F 2 and F 3 progenies, which suggests a true transgenerational effect. The most significant transgenerational effects were on fat yield and concentration, dystocia, still-birth, and maturation. Conclusions These findings suggest that heat stress during pregnancy affects the performance of offspring, regardless of life circumstances in at least the last three generations. Therefore, heat stress can reduce selection efficiency in breeding programs and may have economic significance in livestock.
Moran Gershoni
added 2 research items
The objectives were to estimate the effects of various environmental factors on female calf survival of Israeli Holsteins, to estimate the economic value of calf survival under Israeli conditions, to estimate the genetic and environmental variance components for calf and cow survival using the individual animal model, to perform genome-wide association study (GWAS) analyses of survival to first calving and herd life after first calving, to estimate the genetic and environmental trends for calf survival since 1985, to estimate genetic correlations of calf survival with the traits included in the current Israeli breeding index, and to estimate the consequences of inclusion of calf survival in the national selection index. Mean calf survival rate of Israeli Holsteins from 2001 through 2008 was 0.85, and the mean economic value of survival to first calving was $526. Birth month, gestation length, dystocia, and twin birth significantly affected calf survival rate. Dystocia and twin birth each reduced survival rate by 0.034. Survival rate was highest for calves born in October and lowest for calves born in February. The difference between these months was 3.4%. Maximum survival was at a gestation length of 276 d, the mean gestation length for this population. Survival rate was reduced to 0.76 for calves born after a gestation length of 260 d. The individual animal model was applied for all the genetic analyses. Heritability for calf survival to first calving, as estimated by REML, was 0.009, whereas heritability of herd life from first calving was 0.15. The complete data set for genetic analysis of survival to first calving included 1,235,815 calves born between 1985 and 2017. Annual genetic and phenotypic trends for calf survival were 0.019 and 0.015%, respectively. Correlations of transmitting abilities of 226 sires born since 2010 for calf survival with the traits included in the Israeli breeding index were significant only for the maternal effects of dystocia and stillbirth. The GWAS analysis was based on the transmitting abilities of 1,493 bulls with genotypes and reliabilities >0.5 for calf survival and cow herd life. There were 7 single nucleotide polymorphisms with coefficients of determination >0.03 for calf survival and 12 single nucleotide polymorphisms with coefficients of determination >0.05 for cow survival. There was no overlap between the genome-wide significant markers for the GWAS analyses of calf survival and cow herd life. This corresponds to the conclusion from the REML results and the low correlations between the sire evaluations that the genetic control of the 2 traits are not similar. Inclusion of calf survival in the Israeli breeding would result in a 0.5% increase in calf survival over 10 yr but reduce progress for the other traits by 8%.
Yearling weight gain in male and female Israeli Holstein calves, defined as 365 × ((weight − 35)/age at weight) + 35, was analyzed from 814,729 records on 368,255 animals from 740 herds recorded between 1994 and 2021. The variance components were calculated based on valid records from 2008 through 2017 for each sex separately and both sexes jointly by a single-trait individual animal model analysis, which accounted for repeat records on animals. The analysis model also included the square root, linear, and quadratic effects of age at weight. Heritability and repeatability were 0.35 and 0.71 in the analysis of both sexes and similar in the single sex analyses. The regression of yearling weight gain on birth date in the complete data set was −0.96 kg/year. The complete data set was also analyzed by the same model as the variance component analysis, including both sexes and accounting for differing variance components for each sex. The genetic trend for yearling weight gain, including both sexes, was 1.02 kg/year. Genetic evaluations for yearling weight gain was positively correlated with genetic evaluations for milk, fat, protein production, and cow survival but negatively correlated with female fertility. Yearling weight gain was also correlated with the direct effect on dystocia, and increased yearling weight gain resulted in greater frequency of dystocia. Of the 1749 Israeli Holstein bulls genotyped with reliabilities >50%, 1445 had genetic evaluations. As genotyping of these bulls was performed using several single nucleotide polymorhphism (SNP) chip platforms, we included only those markers that were genotyped in >90% of the tested cohort. A total of 40,498 SNPs were retained. More than 400 markers had significant effects after permutation and correction for multiple testing (pnominal < 1 × 10−8). Considering all SNPs simultaneously, 0.69 of variance among the sires’ transmitting ability was explained. There were 24 markers with coefficients of determination for yearling weight gain >0.04. One marker, BTA-75458-no-rs on chromosome 5, explained ≈6% of the variance among the estimated breeding values for yearling weight gain. ARS-BFGL-NGS-39379 had the fifth largest coefficient of determination in the current study and was also found to have a significant effect on weight at an age of 13–14 months in a previous study on Holsteins. Significant genomic effects on yearling weight gain were mainly associated with milk production quantitative trait loci, specifically with kappa casein metabolism.
Moran Gershoni
added a research item
One of the causes of observed low fertility is embryo loss after fertilization. Previous findings suggested that more than half of fertilizations result in embryo loss before pregnancy is detected. We proposed reinsemination between 49 and 100 d after the first insemination as an indicator trait for early abortion (EA) in dairy cattle based on the mean estrus interval of 21 d. This trait was compared with conception rate from first insemination and conception status, computed as the inverse of the number of inseminations to conception. Animal model variance components were estimated by REML, including parents and grandparents of cows with records. First-parity heritability for first insemination conception rate was 3%. In the multitrait analysis of parities 1 to 3 for putative EA, heritabilities ranged from 8.9% for first parity to 10.4% for second parity. All genetic correlations were >0.9, whereas all environmental correlations were <0.12. The variance component for the service sire effect for putative EA rate was less than half the variance component for conception rate. Thus, genetic control of the 2 traits is clearly different, and analysis of EA rate by a single-trait animal model is justified. Genetic evaluation for putative EA was computed using this model, including all first- through third-parity cows with freshening dates from January 1, 1985, through December 31, 2016, that either became pregnant on first insemination or were reinseminated between 49 and 100 d after the first insemination. All known parents and grandparents of cows with records were included in the analysis. The regression of the breeding value for non-abortion rate on the cows' birth year was 0.083%/yr. The genetic correlation between first-parity EA and conception status was 0.995. The genetic correlations between first-parity EA and milk, fat, and protein production were all negative, whereas the genetic correlation between EA and herd life was 0.33. Inclusion of putative EA in the selection index instead of conception status resulted in 10 to 20% greater genetic gain for both fertility traits. In a genome-wide association study based on 1,200 dairy bulls with reliabilities >50% for abortion rate genotyped for 41,000 markers, 6 markers were found with nominal probabilities of <10⁻¹² to reject the null hypothesis of no effect on EA rate. The markers with the lowest probabilities for EA rate were also included among the markers with the lowest probabilities for female fertility, but not vice versa. The marker explaining the most variance for abortion rate is located within the ABCA9 gene, which is found within an ATP-binding cassette (ABC) genes cluster. The ABC family is the major class of primary active transporters in the placenta.
Andrey Shirak
added a research item
Sex determination (SD) mechanisms are ancient and conserved, yet much diversity is exhibited in primary sex-determining signals that trigger male or female development. In O. niloticus, SD is associated with a male-specific locus on linkage group (LG) 23 which harbors the Y-linked Anti-Müllerian hormone (amh) gene, and a truncated duplication, denoted amhΔy. We have evaluated the possible role of identified indels and SNPs in the amh gene on SD, based on conservation in different O. niloticus strains. A fluorescent assay for the detection of a 5 bp insertion in amhΔy exon VI, efficiently discriminated between XX, XY, and YY genotypes. Concordance rate between amhΔy and sex varied in six Oreochromis strains, from 100% (Ghana) through 90% (Swansea) to 85% (Thai-Chitralada). The association of amhΔy with sex was found to be conserved in all tested O. niloticus strains, and thus supports its key role in SD. However, the previously identified missense SNP (C/T) in amh exon II was found only in the Swansea strain, thus excluding its candidacy for the causal variation of SD across all strains. Effects of markers on LGs 1, 3, and 23 (amhΔy) fully explained sex distribution in one Thai-Chitralada family (R2 = 1.0), whereas in another family only the major effect of LG23 (amhΔy) was significant (R2 = 0.37). Thus, amhΔy on LG23 is associated with genetic SD, either as a single causal gene in different O. niloticus strains, or in combination with segregating genes on LGs 1 and 3 in the Thai-Chitralada hybrid strain.
Eyal Seroussi
added 5 research items
The recent burst of duplication and divergence of the bovine PLA2G2D genes is considered typical of immune response genes, and it was recently shown that PLA2G2D is abundantly expressed in mouse leukocytes and acts as an immunosuppressive phospholipase. Analysis of 1,143 Holstein bulls indicated that the four common haplotypes spanning PLA2G2D display copy number variation ranging from 1 to 4 per haploid genome. Association of the fourth haplotype with negative total merit remained significant (P < 0.002) when corrected for population relatedness. We compared the lipase and bactericidal activities of bovine pancreatic PLA2G1B with human PLA2G2A and G2D and bovine PLA2G2D1 and G2D4 proteins, which had been subcloned, expressed, and refolded by us, and the impact of point mutations in the calcium binding site was investigated. All tested phospholipases were ineffective bactericides of Escherichia coli isolated from bovine mastitis. However, in lactating mice treated with E. coli or lipopolysaccharide (LPS), intramammary injection of bovine PLA2G1B relieved visual and histological inflammation and reduced blood levels of infiltrating lactose. Further studies are warranted to determine whether the observed anti-inflammatory effect involves competitive binding of the receptor Pla2r1 which may mimic the LPS resistance effect in Pla2r1-deficient mice.
Based on pairwise identity-by-state (IBS) distances and whole-genome SNP data, kinship was investigated in the Israeli Holstein population. A total of 789 bulls, including most of the artificial insemination sires in service since 1987, were genotyped by the BovineSNP50 BeadChip. This sample included up to five generations. For each bull-by-bull combination, three states are possible for each marker: no match, a single match and both alleles match. Summing over all markers, the 932 598 IBS scores (three match frequencies*310 866 bull-by-bull combinations) were visualized using three-dimensional coordinates that corresponded to the frequencies of the three possible states. Results were reduced to two dimensions using the transformations x' = 0.7071(1 + freq1-freq2) and y' = 1.2247freq0. Bull-by-bull pairs were grouped according to their level of kinship, and canonical scores were calculated using discriminant analysis and the x' and y' features. Of the 474 pairs of recorded maternal grandsire-grandson with both individuals genotyped, the probability for 28 pairs to belong to this level of kinship was low (P < 0.05), suggesting an error rate of around 3% per generation in pedigree determination.
Background Sheep production in Israel has improved by crossing the fat-tailed local Awassi breed with the East Friesian and later, with the Booroola Merino breed, which led to the formation of the highly prolific Afec-Assaf strain. This strain differs from its parental Awassi breed in morphological traits such as tail and horn size, coat pigmentation and wool characteristics, as well as in production, reproductive and health traits. To identify major genes associated with the formation of the Afec-Assaf strain, we genotyped 41 Awassi and 141 Afec-Assaf sheep using the Illumina Ovine SNP50 BeadChip array, and analyzed the results with PLINK and EMMAX software. The detected variable genomic regions that differed between Awassi and Afec-Assaf sheep (variable genomic regions; VGR) were compared to selection signatures that were reported in 48 published genome-wide association studies in sheep. Because the Afec-Assaf strain, but not the Awassi breed, carries the Booroola mutation, association analysis of BMPR1B used as the test gene was performed to evaluate the ability of this study to identify a VGR that includes such a major gene. Results Of the 20 detected VGR, 12 were novel to this study. A ~7-Mb VGR was identified on Ovies aries chromosome OAR6 where the Booroola mutation is located. Similar to other studies, the most significant VGR was detected on OAR10, in a region that contains candidate genes affecting horn type (RXFP2), climate adaptation (ALOX5AP), fiber diameter (KATNAl1), coat pigmentation (FRY) and genes associated with fat distribution. The VGR on OAR2 included BNC2, which is also involved in controlling coat pigmentation in sheep. Six other VGR contained genes that were shown to be involved in coat pigmentation by analyzing their mammalian orthologues. Genes associated with fat distribution in humans, including GRB14 and COBLL1, were located in additional VGR. Sequencing DNA from Awassi and Afec-Assaf individuals revealed non-synonymous mutations in some of these candidate genes. Conclusions Our results highlight VGR that differentiate the Awassi breed from the Afec-Assaf strain, some of which may include genes that confer an advantage to Afec-Assaf and Assaf over Awassi sheep with respect to intensive sheep production under Mediterranean conditions. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12711-017-0296-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Joel Ira Weller
added 2 research items
An efficient algorithm for genomic selection of moderately sized populations based on single nucleotide polymorphism chip technology is described. A total of 995 Israeli Holstein bulls with genetic evaluations based on daughter records were genotyped for either the BovineSNP50 BeadChip or the BovineSNP50 v2 BeadChip. Milk, fat, protein, somatic cell score, female fertility, milk production persistency and herd-life were analyzed. The 400 markers with the greatest effects on each trait were first selected based on individual analysis of each marker with the genetic evaluations of the bulls as the dependent variable. The effects of all 400 markers were estimated jointly using a 'cow model,' estimated from the data truncated to exclude lactations with freshening dates after September 2006. Genotype probabilities for each locus were computed for all animals with missing genotypes. In Method I, genetic evaluations were computed by analysis of the truncated data set with the sum of the marker effects subtracted from each record. Genomic estimated breeding values for the young bulls with genotypes, but without daughter records, were then computed as their parent averages combined with the sum of each animal's marker effects. Method II genomic breeding values were computed based on regressions of estimated breeding values of bulls with daughter record on their parent averages, sum of marker effects and birth year. Method II correlations of the current breeding values of young bulls without daughter records in the truncated data set were higher than the correlations of the current breeding values with the parent averages for fat and protein production, persistency and herd-life. Bias of evaluations, estimated as a difference between the mean of current breeding values of the young bulls and their genomic evaluations, was reduced for milk production traits, persistency and herd-life. Bias for milk production traits was slightly negative, as opposed to the positive bias of parent averages. Correlations of Method II with the means of daughter records adjusted for fixed effects were higher than parent averages for fat, protein, fertility, persistency and herd-life. Reducing the number of markers included in the analysis from 400 to 300 did not reduce correlations of genomic breeding values for protein with current breeding values, but did slightly reduce correlations with means of daughter records. Method II has the advantages as compared with the method of VanRaden in that genotypes of cows can be readily incorporated into the Method II analysis, and it is more effective for moderately sized populations.
Genome-wide association studies based on tens of thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms have been completed for several dairy cattle populations. Methods have been proposed to directly incorporate genome scan data into breeding programs, chiefly by selection of young sires based on their genotypes for the genetic markers and pedigree without progeny test. Thus, the rate of genetic gain is increased by reduction of the mean generation interval. The methods developed so far for application of genomic selection do not require identification of the actual quantitative trait nucleotides (QTN) responsible for the observed variation of quantitative trait loci (QTL). To date, 2 QTN affecting milk production traits have been detected in dairy cattle: DGAT1 and ABCG2. This review will attempt to address the following questions based on the current state of bovine genomics and statistics. What are the pros and cons for QTN determination? How can data obtained from high-density, genome-wide scans be used most efficiently for QTN determination? Can the genome scan results already available and next-generation sequencing data be used to determine QTN? Should QTN be treated differently than markers at linkage disequilibrium with QTL in genetic evaluation programs? Data obtained by genome-wide association studies can be used to deduce QTL genotypes of sires via application of the a posteriori granddaughter design for concordance testing of putative QTN. This, together with next-generation sequencing technology, will dramatically reduce costs for QTN determination. By complete genome sequencing of 21 sires with many artificial insemination sons, it should be possible to determine concordance for all potential QTN, thus establishing the field of QTNomics.
Joel Ira Weller
added 2 research items
A posteriori and modified granddaughter designs were applied to determine haplotype effects for Holstein bulls and cows with BovineSNP50 [~50,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP); Illumina Inc., San Diego, CA] genotypes. The a posteriori granddaughter design was applied to 52 sire families, each with ≥100 genotyped sons with genetic evaluations based on progeny tests. For 33 traits (milk, fat, and protein yields; fat and protein percentages; somatic cell score; productive life; daughter pregnancy rate; heifer and cow conception rates; service-sire and daughter calving ease; service-sire and daughter stillbirth; 18 conformation traits; and net merit), the analysis was applied to the autosomal segment with the SNP with the greatest effect in the genomic evaluation of each trait. All traits except 2 had a within-family haplotype effect. The same design was applied with the genetic evaluations of sons corrected for SNP effects associated with chromosomes besides the one under analysis. The number of within-family contrasts was 166 without adjustment and 211 with adjustment. Of the 52 bulls analyzed, 36 had BovineHD (high density; Illumina Inc.) genotypes that were used to test for concordance between sire quantitative trait loci and SNP genotypes; complete concordance was not obtained for any effects. Of the 31 traits with effects from the a posteriori granddaughter design, 21 were analyzed with the modified granddaughter design. Only sires with a contrast for the a posteriori granddaughter design and ≥200 granddaughters with a record usable for genetic evaluation were included. Calving traits could not be analyzed because individual cow evaluations were not computed. Eight traits had within-family haplotype effects. With respect to milk and fat yields and fat percentage, the results on Bos taurus autosome (BTA) 14 corresponded to the hypothesis that a missense mutation in the diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 1 (DGAT1) gene is the main causative mutation, although other polymorphisms in that gene also modify fat yield and percentage. The positive allele for protein concentration was less frequent, which indicated that selection on that locus could be effective. Although the results can be used to determine causative polymorphisms for most of the analyzed traits, complete DNA sequencing of most of the analyzed sires probably will be required.
Joel Ira Weller
added a project goal
The main objectives are to determine specific polymorphisms at the DNA level responsible for observed quantitative trait loci and to estimate their effects, frequencies and selection potential in the Holstein dairy cattle breed.