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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Genome-wide association study for birth weight in Nellore cattle points to previously described orthologous genes affecting human and bovine height

Yuri T Utsunomiya1, Adriana S do Carmo1, Roberto Carvalheiro2, Haroldo HR Neves1, Márcia C Matos1, Ludmilla B Zavarez1, Ana M Pérez O’Brien3, Johann Sölkner3, John C McEwan4, John B Cole5, Curtis P Van Tassell6, Flávio S Schenkel7, Marcos VGB da Silva8, Laercio R Porto Neto109, Tad S Sonstegard6 and José F Garcia11*

Author Affiliations

1 Faculdade de Ciências Agrárias e Veterinárias, UNESP - Univ Estadual Paulista, Jaboticabal, São Paulo, 14884-900, Brazil

2 GenSys Consultores Associados, Porto Alegre, 90680-000, Brazil

3 Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Division of Livestock Sciences, BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

4 Centre for Reproduction and Genomics, AgResearch, Invermay, Mosgiel, New Zealand

5 ARS-USDA - Agricultural Research Service - United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, 20705, USA

6 United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, 20705, USA

7 Centre for Genetic Improvement of Livestock, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G2W1, Canada

8 Bioinformatics and Animal Genomics Laboratory, Embrapa Dairy Cattle, Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil

9 School of Veterinary Sciences, The University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia

10 School of Rural and Environmental Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia

11 Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária de Araçatuba, UNESP – Univ Estadual Paulista, Araçatuba, São Paulo, 16050-680, Brazil

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BMC Genetics 2013, 14:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-14-52

Published: 13 June 2013



Birth weight (BW) is an economically important trait in beef cattle, and is associated with growth- and stature-related traits and calving difficulty. One region of the cattle genome, located on Bos primigenius taurus chromosome 14 (BTA14), has been previously shown to be associated with stature by multiple independent studies, and contains orthologous genes affecting human height. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) for BW in Brazilian Nellore cattle (Bos primigenius indicus) was performed using estimated breeding values (EBVs) of 654 progeny-tested bulls genotyped for over 777,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).


The most significant SNP (rs133012258, PGC = 1.34 × 10-9), located at BTA14:25376827, explained 4.62% of the variance in BW EBVs. The surrounding 1 Mb region presented high identity with human, pig and mouse autosomes 8, 4 and 4, respectively, and contains the orthologous height genes PLAG1, CHCHD7, MOS, RPS20, LYN, RDHE2 (SDR16C5) and PENK. The region also overlapped 28 quantitative trait loci (QTLs) previously reported in literature by linkage mapping studies in cattle, including QTLs for birth weight, mature height, carcass weight, stature, pre-weaning average daily gain, calving ease, and gestation length.


This study presents the first GWAS applying a high-density SNP panel to identify putative chromosome regions affecting birth weight in Nellore cattle. These results suggest that the QTLs on BTA14 associated with body size in taurine cattle (Bos primigenius taurus) also affect birth weight and size in zebu cattle (Bos primigenius indicus).

GWAS; Birth weight; Bos primigenius indicus; Nellore cattle; Stature