A number of different quantitative trait loci (QTL) for various phenotypic traits, including milk production, functional, and conformation traits in dairy cattle as well as growth and body composition traits in meat cattle, have been mapped consistently in the middle region of bovine chromosome 6 (BTA6). Dense genetic and physical maps and, ultimately, a fully annotated genome sequence as well as their mutual connections are required to efficiently identify genes and gene variants responsible for genetic variation of phenotypic traits. A comprehensive high-resolution gene-rich map linking densely spaced bovine markers and genes to the annotated human genome sequence is required as a framework to facilitate this approach for the region on BTA6 carrying the QTL.
Therefore, we constructed a high-resolution radiation hybrid (RH) map for the QTL containing chromosomal region of BTA6. This new RH map with a total of 234 loci including 115 genes and ESTs displays a substantial increase in loci density compared to existing physical BTA6 maps. Screening the available bovine genome sequence resources, a total of 73 loci could be assigned to sequence contigs, which were already identified as specific for BTA6. For 43 loci, corresponding sequence contigs, which were not yet placed on the bovine genome assembly, were identified. In addition, the improved potential of this high-resolution RH map for BTA6 with respect to comparative mapping was demonstrated. Mapping a large number of genes on BTA6 and cross-referencing them with map locations in corresponding syntenic multi-species chromosome segments (human, mouse, rat, dog, chicken) achieved a refined accurate alignment of conserved segments and evolutionary breakpoints across the species included.
The gene-anchored high-resolution RH map (1 locus/300 kb) for the targeted region of BTA6 presented here will provide a valuable platform to guide high-quality assembling and annotation of the currently existing bovine genome sequence draft to establish the final architecture of BTA6. Hence, a sequence-based map will provide a key resource to facilitate prospective continued efforts for the selection and validation of relevant positional and functional candidates underlying QTL for milk production and growth-related traits mapped on BTA6 and on similar chromosomal regions from evolutionary closely related species like sheep and goat. Furthermore, the high-resolution sequence-referenced BTA6 map will enable precise identification of multi-species conserved chromosome segments and evolutionary breakpoints in mammalian phylogenetic studies.