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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Discovery of single nucleotide polymorphisms in candidate genes associated with fertility and production traits in Holstein cattle

Sarah D Cochran1, John B Cole2, Daniel J Null2 and Peter J Hansen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Sciences, D.H. Barron Reproductive and Perinatal Biology Research Program, and Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0910, USA

2 Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350, USA

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BMC Genetics 2013, 14:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-14-49

Published: 7 June 2013

Abstract

Background

Identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for specific genes involved in reproduction might improve reliability of genomic estimates for these low-heritability traits. Semen from 550 Holstein bulls of high (≥ 1.7; n = 288) or low (≤ −2; n = 262) daughter pregnancy rate (DPR) was genotyped for 434 candidate SNPs using the Sequenom MassARRAY® system. Three types of SNPs were evaluated: SNPs previously reported to be associated with reproductive traits or physically close to genetic markers for reproduction, SNPs in genes that are well known to be involved in reproductive processes, and SNPs in genes that are differentially expressed between physiological conditions in a variety of tissues associated in reproductive function. Eleven reproduction and production traits were analyzed.

Results

A total of 40 SNPs were associated (P < 0.05) with DPR. Among these were genes involved in the endocrine system, cell signaling, immune function and inhibition of apoptosis. A total of 10 genes were regulated by estradiol. In addition, 22 SNPs were associated with heifer conception rate, 33 with cow conception rate, 36 with productive life, 34 with net merit, 23 with milk yield, 19 with fat yield, 13 with fat percent, 19 with protein yield, 22 with protein percent, and 13 with somatic cell score. The allele substitution effect for SNPs associated with heifer conception rate, cow conception rate, productive life and net merit were in the same direction as for DPR. Allele substitution effects for several SNPs associated with production traits were in the opposite direction as DPR. Nonetheless, there were 29 SNPs associated with DPR that were not negatively associated with production traits.

Conclusion

SNPs in a total of 40 genes associated with DPR were identified as well as SNPs for other traits. It might be feasible to include these SNPs into genomic tests of reproduction and other traits. The genes associated with DPR are likely to be important for understanding the physiology of reproduction. Given the large number of SNPs associated with DPR that were not negatively associated with production traits, it should be possible to select for DPR without compromising production.

Keywords:
Daughter pregnancy rate; Fertility; Dairy cattle; SNP; Candidate gene