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1.  The Genetic Architecture of Climatic Adaptation of Tropical Cattle 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113284.
Adaptation of global food systems to climate change is essential to feed the world. Tropical cattle production, a mainstay of profitability for farmers in the developing world, is dominated by heat, lack of water, poor quality feedstuffs, parasites, and tropical diseases. In these systems European cattle suffer significant stock loss, and the cross breeding of taurine x indicine cattle is unpredictable due to the dilution of adaptation to heat and tropical diseases. We explored the genetic architecture of ten traits of tropical cattle production using genome wide association studies of 4,662 animals varying from 0% to 100% indicine. We show that nine of the ten have genetic architectures that include genes of major effect, and in one case, a single location that accounted for more than 71% of the genetic variation. One genetic region in particular had effects on parasite resistance, yearling weight, body condition score, coat colour and penile sheath score. This region, extending 20 Mb on BTA5, appeared to be under genetic selection possibly through maintenance of haplotypes by breeders. We found that the amount of genetic variation and the genetic correlations between traits did not depend upon the degree of indicine content in the animals. Climate change is expected to expand some conditions of the tropics to more temperate environments, which may impact negatively on global livestock health and production. Our results point to several important genes that have large effects on adaptation that could be introduced into more temperate cattle without detrimental effects on productivity.
PMCID: PMC4242650  PMID: 25419663
2.  A Multi-Trait, Meta-analysis for Detecting Pleiotropic Polymorphisms for Stature, Fatness and Reproduction in Beef Cattle 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004198.
Polymorphisms that affect complex traits or quantitative trait loci (QTL) often affect multiple traits. We describe two novel methods (1) for finding single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) significantly associated with one or more traits using a multi-trait, meta-analysis, and (2) for distinguishing between a single pleiotropic QTL and multiple linked QTL. The meta-analysis uses the effect of each SNP on each of n traits, estimated in single trait genome wide association studies (GWAS). These effects are expressed as a vector of signed t-values (t) and the error covariance matrix of these t values is approximated by the correlation matrix of t-values among the traits calculated across the SNP (V). Consequently, t'V−1t is approximately distributed as a chi-squared with n degrees of freedom. An attractive feature of the meta-analysis is that it uses estimated effects of SNPs from single trait GWAS, so it can be applied to published data where individual records are not available. We demonstrate that the multi-trait method can be used to increase the power (numbers of SNPs validated in an independent population) of GWAS in a beef cattle data set including 10,191 animals genotyped for 729,068 SNPs with 32 traits recorded, including growth and reproduction traits. We can distinguish between a single pleiotropic QTL and multiple linked QTL because multiple SNPs tagging the same QTL show the same pattern of effects across traits. We confirm this finding by demonstrating that when one SNP is included in the statistical model the other SNPs have a non-significant effect. In the beef cattle data set, cluster analysis yielded four groups of QTL with similar patterns of effects across traits within a group. A linear index was used to validate SNPs having effects on multiple traits and to identify additional SNPs belonging to these four groups.
Author Summary
We describe novel methods for finding significant associations between a genome wide panel of SNPs and multiple complex traits, and further for distinguishing between genes with effects on multiple traits and multiple linked genes affecting different traits. The method uses a meta-analysis based on estimates of SNP effects from independent single trait genome wide association studies (GWAS). The method could therefore be widely used to combine already published GWAS results. The method was applied to 32 traits that describe growth, body composition, feed intake and reproduction in 10,191 beef cattle genotyped for approximately 700,000 SNP. The genes found to be associated with these traits can be arranged into 4 groups that differ in their pattern of effects and hence presumably in their physiological mechanism of action. For instance, one group of genes affects weight and fatness in the opposite direction and can be described as a group of genes affecting mature size, while another group affects weight and fatness in the same direction.
PMCID: PMC3967938  PMID: 24675618
3.  Evidence for positive selection of taurine genes within a QTL region on chromosome X associated with testicular size in Australian Brahman cattle 
BMC Genetics  2014;15:6.
Previous genome-wide association studies have identified significant regions of the X chromosome associated with reproductive traits in two Bos indicus-influenced breeds: Brahman cattle and Tropical Composites. Two QTL regions on this chromosome were identified in both breeds as strongly associated with scrotal circumference measurements, a reproductive trait previously shown to be useful for selection of young bulls. Scrotal circumference is genetically correlated with early age at puberty in both male and female offspring. These QTL were located at positions 69–77 and 81–92 Mb respectively, large areas each to which a significant number of potential candidate genes were mapped.
To further characterise these regions, a bioinformatic approach was undertaken to identify novel non-synonymous SNP within the QTL regions of interest in Brahman cattle. After SNP discovery, we used conventional molecular assay technologies to perform studies of two candidate genes in both breeds. Non-synonymous SNP mapped to Testis-expressed gene 11 (Tex11) were associated (P < 0.001) with scrotal circumference in both breeds, and associations with percentage of normal sperm cells were also observed (P < 0.05). Evidence for recent selection was found as Tex11 SNP form a haplotype segment of Bos taurus origin that is retained within Brahman and Tropical Composite cattle with greatest reproductive potential.
Association of non-synonymous SNP presented here are a first step to functional genetic studies. Bovine species may serve as a model for studying the role of Tex11 in male fertility, warranting further in-depth molecular characterisation.
PMCID: PMC3893399  PMID: 24410912
Bovine; Reproductive trait; Candidate gene; Haplotype analysis; Association study
4.  Detection of quantitative trait loci in Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle using genome-wide association studies 
The apparent effect of a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on phenotype depends on the linkage disequilibrium (LD) between the SNP and a quantitative trait locus (QTL). However, the phase of LD between a SNP and a QTL may differ between Bos indicus and Bos taurus because they diverged at least one hundred thousand years ago. Here, we test the hypothesis that the apparent effect of a SNP on a quantitative trait depends on whether the SNP allele is inherited from a Bos taurus or Bos indicus ancestor.
Phenotype data on one or more traits and SNP genotype data for 10 181 cattle from Bos taurus, Bos indicus and composite breeds were used. All animals had genotypes for 729 068 SNPs (real or imputed). Chromosome segments were classified as originating from B. indicus or B. taurus on the basis of the haplotype of SNP alleles they contained. Consequently, SNP alleles were classified according to their sub-species origin. Three models were used for the association study: (1) conventional GWAS (genome-wide association study), fitting a single SNP effect regardless of subspecies origin, (2) interaction GWAS, fitting an interaction between SNP and subspecies-origin, and (3) best variable GWAS, fitting the most significant combination of SNP and sub-species origin.
Fitting an interaction between SNP and subspecies origin resulted in more significant SNPs (i.e. more power) than a conventional GWAS. Thus, the effect of a SNP depends on the subspecies that the allele originates from. Also, most QTL segregated in only one subspecies, suggesting that many mutations that affect the traits studied occurred after divergence of the subspecies or the mutation became fixed or was lost in one of the subspecies.
The results imply that GWAS and genomic selection could gain power by distinguishing SNP alleles based on their subspecies origin, and that only few QTL segregate in both B. indicus and B. taurus cattle. Thus, the QTL that segregate in current populations likely resulted from mutations that occurred in one of the subspecies and can have both positive and negative effects on the traits. There was no evidence that selection has increased the frequency of alleles that increase body weight.
PMCID: PMC4176739  PMID: 24168700
5.  Estimating the effect of SNP genotype on quantitative traits from pooled DNA samples 
Studies to detect associations between DNA markers and traits of interest in humans and livestock benefit from increasing the number of individuals genotyped. Performing association studies on pooled DNA samples can provide greater power for a given cost. For quantitative traits, the effect of an SNP is measured in the units of the trait and here we propose and demonstrate a method to estimate SNP effects on quantitative traits from pooled DNA data.
To obtain estimates of SNP effects from pooled DNA samples, we used logistic regression of estimated allele frequencies in pools on phenotype. The method was tested on a simulated dataset, and a beef cattle dataset using a model that included principal components from a genomic correlation matrix derived from the allele frequencies estimated from the pooled samples. The performance of the obtained estimates was evaluated by comparison with estimates obtained using regression of phenotype on genotype from individual samples of DNA.
For the simulated data, the estimates of SNP effects from pooled DNA are similar but asymptotically different to those from individual DNA data. Error in estimating allele frequencies had a large effect on the accuracy of estimated SNP effects. For the beef cattle dataset, the principal components of the genomic correlation matrix from pooled DNA were consistent with known breed groups, and could be used to account for population stratification. Correctly modeling the contemporary group structure was essential to achieve estimates similar to those from individual DNA data, and pooling DNA from individuals within groups was superior to pooling DNA across groups. For a fixed number of assays, pooled DNA samples produced results that were more correlated with results from individual genotyping data than were results from one random individual assayed from each pool.
Use of logistic regression of allele frequency on phenotype makes it possible to estimate SNP effects on quantitative traits from pooled DNA samples. With pooled DNA samples, genotyping costs are reduced, and in cases where trait records are abundant this approach is promising to obtain SNP associations for marker-assisted selection.
PMCID: PMC3353226  PMID: 22507187
6.  Genome-Wide Analysis of the World's Sheep Breeds Reveals High Levels of Historic Mixture and Strong Recent Selection 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(2):e1001258.
Genomic structure in a global collection of domesticated sheep reveals a history of artificial selection for horn loss and traits relating to pigmentation, reproduction, and body size.
Through their domestication and subsequent selection, sheep have been adapted to thrive in a diverse range of environments. To characterise the genetic consequence of both domestication and selection, we genotyped 49,034 SNP in 2,819 animals from a diverse collection of 74 sheep breeds. We find the majority of sheep populations contain high SNP diversity and have retained an effective population size much higher than most cattle or dog breeds, suggesting domestication occurred from a broad genetic base. Extensive haplotype sharing and generally low divergence time between breeds reveal frequent genetic exchange has occurred during the development of modern breeds. A scan of the genome for selection signals revealed 31 regions containing genes for coat pigmentation, skeletal morphology, body size, growth, and reproduction. We demonstrate the strongest selection signal has occurred in response to breeding for the absence of horns. The high density map of genetic variability provides an in-depth view of the genetic history for this important livestock species.
Author Summary
During the process of domestication, mankind recruited animals from the wild into a captive environment, changing their morphology, behaviour, and genetics. In the case of sheep, domestication and subsequent selection by their animal handlers over thousands of years has produced a spectrum of breeds specialised for the production of wool, milk, and meat. We sought to use this population history to search for the genes that directly underpin phenotypic variation. We collected DNA from 2,819 sheep, belonging to 74 breeds sampled from around the world, and assessed the genotype of each animal at nearly 50,000 locations across the genome. Our results show that sheep breeds have maintained high levels of genetic diversity, in contrast to other domestic animals such as dogs. We also show that particular regions of the genome contain strong evidence for accelerated change in response to artificial selection. The most prominent example was identified in response to breeding for the absence of horns, a trait now common across many modern breeds. Furthermore, we demonstrate that other genomic regions under selection in sheep contain genes controlling pigmentation, reproduction, and body size.
PMCID: PMC3274507  PMID: 22346734
7.  Haplotype Analysis Improved Evidence for Candidate Genes for Intramuscular Fat Percentage from a Genome Wide Association Study of Cattle 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29601.
In genome wide association studies (GWAS), haplotype analyses of SNP data are neglected in favour of single point analysis of associations. In a recent GWAS, we found that none of the known candidate genes for intramuscular fat (IMF) had been identified. In this study, data from the GWAS for these candidate genes were re-analysed as haplotypes. First, we confirmed that the methodology would find evidence for association between haplotypes in candidate genes of the calpain-calpastatin complex and musculus longissimus lumborum peak force (LLPF), because these genes had been confirmed through single point analysis in the GWAS. Then, for intramuscular fat percent (IMF), we found significant partial haplotype substitution effects for the genes ADIPOQ and CXCR4, as well as suggestive associations to the genes CEBPA, FASN, and CAPN1. Haplotypes for these genes explained 80% more of the phenotypic variance compared to the best single SNP. For some genes the analyses suggested that there was more than one causative mutation in some genes, or confirmed that some causative mutations are limited to particular subgroups of a species. Fitting the SNPs and their interactions simultaneously explained a similar amount of the phenotypic variance compared to haplotype analyses. Haplotype analysis is a neglected part of the suite of tools used to analyse GWAS data, would be a useful method to extract more information from these data sets, and may contribute to reducing the missing heritability problem.
PMCID: PMC3247274  PMID: 22216329
8.  The effect of measurement error of phenotypes on genome wide association studies 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:232.
There is an unspoken assumption that imprecision of measurement of phenotypes will not have large systematic effects on the location of significant associations in a genome wide association study (GWAS). In this report, the effects of two independent measurements of the same trait, subcutaneous fat thickness, were examined in GWAS of 940 individuals.
The trait values obtained by two independent groups working to the same trait definition were correlated with r = 0.72. The allele effects obtained from the two analyses were only moderately correlated, with r = 0.53, and there was one significant (P < 0.0001) association in common to the two measurements. The correlation between allele effects was approximately equal to the square of the correlation between the trait measurements. An important quantitative trait locus (QTL) on BTA14 appeared to be shifted distally by 1 Mb along the chromosome. The divergence in GWAS was stronger with data coded into two discrete classes. Univariate trimming of the top and bottom 5% of data, a method used to control for erroneous trait values, decreased the similarity between the GWAS and increased the apparent shift of the QTL on BTA14. Stringent bivariate trimming of data, using only trait values that were similar to each other in the two data sets, substantially improved the correlation of trait values and allele effects in the GWAS, and showed evidence for two QTL on BTA14 separated by 1 Mb. Despite the reduction in sample size due to trimming, more SNP were significant. Using the mean of the two measurements of the trait was not as efficient as bivariate trimming.
It is recommended that trait values in GWAS experiments be examined for repeatability before the experiment is performed. For traits that do not have high repeatability (r < 0.95), two or more independent measurements of the same trait should be obtained for all samples, and individuals genotyped that have highly correlated trait measurements.
PMCID: PMC3224145  PMID: 21569388
9.  Bovine proteins containing poly-glutamine repeats are often polymorphic and enriched for components of transcriptional regulatory complexes 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:654.
About forty human diseases are caused by repeat instability mutations. A distinct subset of these diseases is the result of extreme expansions of polymorphic trinucleotide repeats; typically CAG repeats encoding poly-glutamine (poly-Q) tracts in proteins. Polymorphic repeat length variation is also apparent in human poly-Q encoding genes from normal individuals. As these coding sequence repeats are subject to selection in mammals, it has been suggested that normal variations in some of these typically highly conserved genes are implicated in morphological differences between species and phenotypic variations within species. At present, poly-Q encoding genes in non-human mammalian species are poorly documented, as are their functions and propensities for polymorphic variation.
The current investigation identified 178 bovine poly-Q encoding genes (Q ≥ 5) and within this group, 26 genes with orthologs in both human and mouse that did not contain poly-Q repeats. The bovine poly-Q encoding genes typically had ubiquitous expression patterns although there was bias towards expression in epithelia, brain and testes. They were also characterised by unusually large sizes. Analysis of gene ontology terms revealed that the encoded proteins were strongly enriched for functions associated with transcriptional regulation and many contributed to physical interaction networks in the nucleus where they presumably act cooperatively in transcriptional regulatory complexes. In addition, the coding sequence CAG repeats in some bovine genes impacted mRNA splicing thereby generating unusual transcriptional diversity, which in at least one instance was tissue-specific. The poly-Q encoding genes were prioritised using multiple criteria for their likelihood of being polymorphic and then the highest ranking group was experimentally tested for polymorphic variation within a cattle diversity panel. Extensive and meiotically stable variation was identified.
Transcriptional diversity can potentially be generated in poly-Q encoding genes by the impact of CAG repeat tracts on mRNA alternative splicing. This effect, combined with the physical interactions of the encoded proteins in large transcriptional regulatory complexes suggests that polymorphic variations of proteins in these complexes have strong potential to affect phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3014979  PMID: 21092319
10.  Haplotypes that include the integrin alpha 11 gene are associated with tick burden in cattle 
BMC Genetics  2010;11:55.
Infestations on cattle by the ectoparasite Boophilus (Rhipicephalus) microplus (cattle tick) impact negatively on animal production systems. Host resistance to tick infestation has a low to moderate heritability in the range 0.13 - 0.64 in Australia. Previous studies identified a QTL on bovine chromosome 10 (BTA10) linked to tick burden in cattle.
To confirm these associations, we collected genotypes of 17 SNP from BTA10, including three obtained by sequencing part of the ITGA11 (Integrin alpha 11) gene. Initially, we genotyped 1,055 dairy cattle for the 17 SNP, and then genotyped 557 Brahman and 216 Tropical Composite beef cattle for 11 of the 17 SNP. In total, 7 of the SNP were significantly (P < 0.05) associated with tick burden tested in any of the samples. One SNP, ss161109814, was significantly (P < 0.05) associated with tick burden in both the taurine and the Brahman sample, but the favourable allele was different. Haplotypes for three and for 10 SNP were more significantly (P < 0.001) associated with tick burden than SNP analysed individually. Some of the common haplotypes with the largest sample sizes explained between 1.3% and 1.5% of the residual variance in tick burden.
These analyses confirm the location of a QTL affecting tick burden on BTA10 and position it close to the ITGA11 gene. The presence of a significant association in such widely divergent animals suggests that further SNP discovery in this region to detect causal mutations would be warranted.
PMCID: PMC2905322  PMID: 20565915
11.  Genome wide signatures of positive selection: The comparison of independent samples and the identification of regions associated to traits 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:178.
The goal of genome wide analyses of polymorphisms is to achieve a better understanding of the link between genotype and phenotype. Part of that goal is to understand the selective forces that have operated on a population.
In this study we compared the signals of selection, identified through population divergence in the Bovine HapMap project, to those found in an independent sample of cattle from Australia. Evidence for population differentiation across the genome, as measured by FST, was highly correlated in the two data sets. Nevertheless, 40% of the variance in FST between the two studies was attributed to the differences in breed composition. Seventy six percent of the variance in FST was attributed to differences in SNP composition and density when the same breeds were compared. The difference between FST of adjacent loci increased rapidly with the increase in distance between SNP, reaching an asymptote after 20 kb. Using 129 SNP that have highly divergent FST values in both data sets, we identified 12 regions that had additive effects on the traits residual feed intake, beef yield or intramuscular fatness measured in the Australian sample. Four of these regions had effects on more than one trait. One of these regions includes the R3HDM1 gene, which is under selection in European humans.
Firstly, many different populations will be necessary for a full description of selective signatures across the genome, not just a small set of highly divergent populations. Secondly, it is necessary to use the same SNP when comparing the signatures of selection from one study to another. Thirdly, useful signatures of selection can be obtained where many of the groups have only minor genetic differences and may not be clearly separated in a principal component analysis. Fourthly, combining analyses of genome wide selection signatures and genome wide associations to traits helps to define the trait under selection or the population group in which the QTL is likely to be segregating. Finally, the FST difference between adjacent loci suggests that 150,000 evenly spaced SNP will be required to study selective signatures in all parts of the bovine genome.
PMCID: PMC2681478  PMID: 19393047
12.  Variation at the Calpain 3 gene is associated with meat tenderness in zebu and composite breeds of cattle 
BMC Genetics  2008;9:41.
Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) affecting meat tenderness have been reported on Bovine chromosome 10. Here we examine variation at the Calpain 3 (CAPN3) gene in cattle, a gene located within the confidence interval of the QTL, and which is a positional candidate gene based on the biochemical activity of the protein.
We identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in the genomic sequence of the CAPN3 gene and tested three of these in a sample of 2189 cattle. Of the three SNP genotyped, the CAPN3:c.1538+225G>T had the largest significant additive effect, with an allele substitution effect in the Brahman of α = -0.144 kg, SE = 0.060, P = 0.016, and the polymorphism explained 1.7% of the residual phenotypic variance in that sample of the breed. Significant haplotype substitution effects were found for all three breeds, the Brahman, the Belmont Red, and the Santa Gertrudis. For the common haplotype, the haplotype substitution effect in the Brahman was α = 0.169 kg, SE = 0.056, P = 0.003. The effect of this gene was compared to Calpastatin in the same sample. The SNP show negligible frequencies in taurine breeds and low to moderate minor allele frequencies in zebu or composite animals.
These associations confirm the location of a QTL for meat tenderness in this region of bovine chromosome 10. SNP in or near this gene may be responsible for part of the overall difference between taurine and zebu breeds in meat tenderness, and the greater variability in meat tenderness found in zebu and composite breeds. The evidence provided so far suggests that none of these tested SNP are causative mutations.
PMCID: PMC2474649  PMID: 18590576
13.  The strike rate index: a new index for journal quality based on journal size and the h-index of citations 
Quantifying the impact of scientific research is almost always controversial, and there is a need for a uniform method that can be applied across all fields. Increasingly, however, the quantification has been summed up in the impact factor of the journal in which the work is published, which is known to show differences between fields. Here the h-index, a way to summarize an individual's highly cited work, was calculated for journals over a twenty year time span and compared to the size of the journal in four fields, Agriculture, Condensed Matter Physics, Genetics and Heredity and Mathematical Physics. There is a linear log-log relationship between the h-index and the size of the journal: the larger the journal, the more likely it is to have a high h-index. The four fields cannot be separated from each other suggesting that this relationship applies to all fields. A strike rate index (SRI) based on the log relationship of the h-index and the size of the journal shows a similar distribution in the four fields, with similar thresholds for quality, allowing journals across diverse fields to be compared to each other. The SRI explains more than four times the variation in citation counts compared to the impact factor.
PMCID: PMC1868756  PMID: 17445275

Results 1-13 (13)