Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A genome-wide association study using international breeding-evaluation data identifies major loci affecting production traits and stature in the Brown Swiss cattle breed

Jiazhong Guo12, Hossein Jorjani3 and Örjan Carlborg2*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Animal Science and Technology, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi, 712100, People’s Republic of China

2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Computational Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

3 Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

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BMC Genetics 2012, 13:82  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-13-82

Published: 2 October 2012



The genome-wide association study (GWAS) is a useful approach to identify genes affecting economically important traits in dairy cattle. Here, we report the results from a GWAS based on high-density SNP genotype data and estimated breeding values for nine production, fertility, body conformation, udder health and workability traits in the Brown Swiss cattle population that is part of the international genomic evaluation program.


GWASs were performed using 50 k SNP chip data and deregressed estimated breeding values (DEBVs) for nine traits from between 2061 and 5043 bulls that were part of the international genomic evaluation program coordinated by Interbull Center. The nine traits were milk yield (MY), fat yield (FY), protein yield (PY), lactating cow’s ability to recycle after calving (CRC), angularity (ANG), body depth (BDE), stature (STA), milk somatic cell score (SCS) and milk speed (MSP). Analyses were performed using a linear mixed model correcting for population confounding. A total of 74 SNPs were detected to be genome-wide significantly associated with one or several of the nine analyzed traits. The strongest signal was identified on chromosome 25 for milk production traits, stature and body depth. Other signals were on chromosome 11 for angularity, chromosome 24 for somatic cell score, and chromosome 6 for milking speed. Some signals overlapped with earlier reported QTL for similar traits in other cattle populations and were located close to interesting candidate genes worthy of further investigations.


Our study shows that international genetic evaluation data is a useful resource for identifying genetic factors influencing complex traits in livestock. Several genome wide significant association signals could be identified in the Brown Swiss population, including a major signal on BTA25. Our findings report several associations and plausible candidate genes that deserve further exploration in other populations and molecular dissection to explore the potential economic impact and the genetic mechanisms underlying these production traits in cattle.