Open Access Research article

Recent and historical recombination in the admixed Norwegian Red cattle breed

Marte Sodeland1*, Matthew Kent1, Ben J Hayes12, Harald Grove1 and Sigbjørn Lien1

Author affiliations

1 Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Centre for Integrative Genetics, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, N-1432 Aas, Norway

2 Biosciences Research Division, Department of Primary Industries Victoria, Melbourne, 3083, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-33

Published: 14 January 2011



Comparison of recent patterns of recombination derived from linkage maps to historical patterns of recombination from linkage disequilibrium (LD) could help identify genomic regions affected by strong artificial selection, appearing as reduced recent recombination. Norwegian Red cattle (NRF) make an interesting case study for investigating these patterns as it is an admixed breed with an extensively recorded pedigree. NRF have been under strong artificial selection for traits such as milk and meat production, fertility and health.

While measures of LD is also crucial for determining the number of markers required for association mapping studies, estimates of recombination rate can be used to assess quality of genomic assemblies.


A dataset containing more than 17,000 genome-wide distributed SNPs and 2600 animals was used to assess recombination rates and LD in NRF. Although low LD measured by r2 was observed in NRF relative to some of the breeds from which this breed originates, reports from breeds other than those assessed in this study have described more rapid decline in r2 at short distances than what was found in NRF. Rate of decline in r2 for NRF suggested that to obtain an expected r2 between markers and a causal polymorphism of at least 0.5 for genome-wide association studies, approximately one SNP every 15 kb or a total of 200,000 SNPs would be required. For well known quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for milk production traits on Bos Taurus chromosomes 1, 6 and 20, map length based on historic recombination was greater than map length based on recent recombination in NRF.

Further, positions for 130 previously unpositioned contigs from assembly of the bovine genome sequence (Btau_4.0) found using comparative sequence analysis were validated by linkage analysis, and 28% of these positions corresponded to extreme values of population recombination rate.


While LD is reduced in NRF compared to some of the breeds from which this admixed breed originated, it is elevated over short distances compared to some other cattle breeds. Genomic regions in NRF where map length based on historic recombination was greater than map length based on recent recombination coincided with some well known QTL regions for milk production traits.

Linkage analysis in combination with comparative sequence analysis and detection of regions with extreme values of population recombination rate proved to be valuable for detecting problematic regions in the Btau_4.0 genome assembly.