Open Access Research article

Genome-wide association study for intramuscular fat deposition and composition in Nellore cattle

Aline SM Cesar1, Luciana CA Regitano2, Gerson B Mourão1, Rymer R Tullio2, Dante PD Lanna1, Renata T Nassu2, Maurício A Mudado2, Priscila SN Oliveira3, Michele L do Nascimento1, Amália S Chaves1, Maurício M Alencar2, Tad S Sonstegard4, Dorian J Garrick5, James M Reecy5 and Luiz L Coutinho1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Science, University of São Paulo, Piracicaba SP 13418-900, Brazil

2 Embrapa Southeast-Cattle Research Center, São Carlos, SP 13560-970, Brazil

3 Department of Genetics and Evolution, Federal University of São Carlos, São Carlos, SP 13565-905, Brazil

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

5 Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-39

Published: 25 March 2014



Meat from Bos taurus and Bos indicus breeds are an important source of nutrients for humans and intramuscular fat (IMF) influences its flavor, nutritional value and impacts human health. Human consumption of fat that contains high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) can reduce the concentration of undesirable cholesterol (LDL) in circulating blood. Different feeding practices and genetic variation within and between breeds influences the amount of IMF and fatty acid (FA) composition in meat. However, it is difficult and costly to determine fatty acid composition, which has precluded beef cattle breeding programs from selecting for a healthier fatty acid profile. In this study, we employed a high-density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip to genotype 386 Nellore steers, a Bos indicus breed and, a Bayesian approach to identify genomic regions and putative candidate genes that could be involved with deposition and composition of IMF.


Twenty-three genomic regions (1-Mb SNP windows) associated with IMF deposition and FA composition that each explain ≥ 1% of the genetic variance were identified on chromosomes 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 26 and 27. Many of these regions were not previously detected in other breeds. The genes present in these regions were identified and some can help explain the genetic basis of deposition and composition of fat in cattle.


The genomic regions and genes identified contribute to a better understanding of the genetic control of fatty acid deposition and can lead to DNA-based selection strategies to improve meat quality for human consumption.

Fatty acid; GWAS; Bos indicus; Beef; Positional candidate gene