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GWAS and fine-mapping of livability and six disease traits in Holstein cattle

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Background: Health traits are of significant economic importance to the dairy industry due to their effects on milk production and associated treatment costs. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) provide a means to identify associated genomic variants and thus reveal insights into the genetic architecture of complex traits and diseases. The objective of this study is to investigate the genetic basis of seven health traits in dairy cattle and to identify potential candidate genes associated with cattle health using GWAS, fine mapping, and analyses of multi-tissue transcriptome data. Results: We studied cow livability and six direct disease traits, mastitis, ketosis, hypocalcemia, displaced abomasum, metritis, and retained placenta, using de-regressed breeding values and more than three million imputed DNA sequence variants. After data edits and filtering on reliability, the number of bulls included in the analyses ranged from 11,880 (hypocalcemia) to 24,699 (livability). GWAS was performed using a mixed-model association test, and a Bayesian fine-mapping procedure was conducted to calculate a posterior probability of causality to each variant and gene in the candidate regions. The GWAS detected a total of eight genome-wide significant associations for three traits, cow livability, ketosis, and hypocalcemia, including the bovine Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) region associated with livability. Our fine-mapping of associated regions reported 20 candidate genes with the highest posterior probabilities of causality for cattle health. Combined with transcriptome data across multiple tissues in cattle, we further exploited these candidate genes to identify specific expression patterns in disease-related tissues and relevant biological explanations such as the expression of Group-specific Component (GC) in the liver and association with mastitis as well as the Coiled-Coil Domain Containing 88C (CCDC88C) expression in CD8 cells and association with cow livability. Conclusions: Collectively, our analyses report six significant associations and 20 candidate genes of cattle health. With the integration of multi-tissue transcriptome data, our results provide useful information for future functional studies and better understanding of the biological relationship between genetics and disease susceptibility in cattle.




Freebern, E., Santos, D. J. A., Fang, L., Jiang, J., Parker Gaddis, K. L., Liu, G. E., … Ma, L. (2020). GWAS and fine-mapping of livability and six disease traits in Holstein cattle. BMC Genomics, 21(1).

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