Open Access Research article

Large scale genome-wide association and LDLA mapping study identifies QTLs for boar taint and related sex steroids

Eli Grindflek1*, Sigbjørn Lien23, Hanne Hamland13, Marianne HS Hansen13, Matthew Kent23, Maren van Son1 and Theo HE Meuwissen2

Author Affiliations

1 NORSVIN (The Norwegian Pig Breeders Association), PO Box 504, 2304 Hamar, Norway

2 Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, 1432 Ås, Norway

3 Centre for Integrative Genetics (CIGENE), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003 Ås, Norway

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2011, 12:362  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-362

Published: 13 July 2011



Boar taint is observed in a high proportion of uncastrated male pigs and is characterized by an unpleasant odor/flavor in cooked meat, primarily caused by elevated levels of androstenone and skatole. Androstenone is a steroid produced in the testis in parallel with biosynthesis of other sex steroids like testosterone and estrogens. This represents a challenge when performing selection against androstenone in breeding programs, without simultaneously decreasing levels of other steroids. The aim of this study was to use high-density genome wide association (GWA) in combination with linkage disequilibrium-linkage analysis (LDLA) to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) associated with boar taint compounds and related sex steroids in commercial Landrace (n = 1,251) and Duroc (n = 918) breeds.


Altogether, 14 genome wide significant (GWS) QTL regions for androstenone in subcutaneous fat were obtained from the LDLA study in Landrace and 14 GWS QTL regions in Duroc. LDLA analysis revealed that 7 of these QTL regions, located on SSC 1, 2, 3, 7 and 15, were obtained in both breeds. All 14 GWS androstenone QTLs in Landrace are also affecting the estrogens at chromosome wise significance (CWS) or GWS levels, while in Duroc, 3 of the 14 QTLs affect androstenone without affecting any of the estrogens. For skatole, 10 and 4 QTLs were GWS in the LDLA analysis for Landrace and Duroc respectively, with 4 of these detected in both breeds. The GWS QTLs for skatole obtained by LDLA are located at SSC 1, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 and 14.


This is the first report applying the Porcine 60 K SNP array for simultaneous analysis of boar taint compounds and related sex hormones, using both GWA and LDLA approaches. Several QTLs are involved in regulation of androstenone and skatole, and most of the QTLs for androstenone are also affecting the levels of estrogens. Seven QTLs for androstenone were detected in one breed and confirmed in the other, i.e. in an independent sample, although the majority of QTLs are breed specific. Most QTLs for skatole do not negatively affect other sex hormones and should be easier to implement into the breeding scheme.