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Open Access Research article

The distal end of porcine chromosome 6p is involved in the regulation of skatole levels in boars

António M Ramos1, Naomi Duijvesteijn12*, Egbert F Knol2, Jan WM Merks2, Henk Bovenhuis1, Richard PMA Crooijmans1, Martien AM Groenen1 and Barbara Harlizius2

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH, Wageningen, The Netherlands

2 IPG, Institute for Pig Genetics B.V., PO Box 43, 6640 AA, Beuningen, The Netherlands

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:35  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-35

Published: 20 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Boar taint is an unpleasant condition of pork, mainly due to the accumulation of androstenone and skatole in male pigs at onset of puberty. This condition is the cause of considerable economic losses in the pig industry and the most common practice to control it is to castrate male piglets. Because of the economic and animal welfare concerns there is interest in developing genetic markers that could be used in selection schemes to decrease the incidence of boar taint. The Porcine 60 K SNP Beadchip was used to genotype 891 pigs from a composite Duroc sire line, for which skatole levels in fat had been collected.

Results

The genome-wide association study revealed that 16 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) located on the proximal region of chromosome 6 were significantly associated with skatole levels. These SNPs are grouped in three separate clusters located in the initial 6 Mb region of chromosome 6. The differences observed between the homozygote genotypes for SNPs in the three clusters were substantial, including a difference of 102.8 ng/g skatole in melted fat between the homozygotes for the ALGA0107039 marker. Single SNPs explain up to 22% of the phenotypic variance. No obvious candidate genes could be pinpointed in the region, which may be due to the need of further annotation of the pig genome.

Conclusions

This study demonstrated new SNP markers significantly associated with skatole levels in the distal region of chromosome 6p. These markers defined three independent clusters in the region, which contain a low number of protein-coding genes. The considerable differences observed between the homozygous genotypes for several SNPs may be used in future selection schemes to reduce skatole levels in pigs