Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Whole-genome sequence analysis reveals differences in population management and selection of European low-input pig breeds

Juan Manuel Herrero-Medrano1*, Hendrik-Jan Megens1, Martien AM Groenen1, Mirte Bosse1, Miguel Pérez-Enciso23 and Richard PMA Crooijmans1

Author Affiliations

1 Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen University, De Elst 1 6708 WD, Wageningen, The Netherlands

2 Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics, Consortium CSIC-IRTA-UAB-UB, Edifici CRAG, Campus Universitat Autonoma Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain

3 Institut Català de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:601  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-601

Published: 16 July 2014



A major concern in conservation genetics is to maintain the genetic diversity of populations. Genetic variation in livestock species is threatened by the progressive marginalisation of local breeds in benefit of high-output pigs worldwide. We used high-density SNP and re-sequencing data to assess genetic diversity of local pig breeds from Europe. In addition, we re-sequenced pigs from commercial breeds to identify potential candidate mutations responsible for phenotypic divergence among these groups of breeds.


Our results point out some local breeds with low genetic diversity, whose genome shows a high proportion of regions of homozygosis (>50%) and that harbour a large number of potentially damaging mutations. We also observed a high correlation between genetic diversity estimates using high-density SNP data and Next Generation Sequencing data (r = 0.96 at individual level). The study of non-synonymous SNPs that were fixed in commercial breeds and also in any local breed, but with different allele, revealed 99 non-synonymous SNPs affecting 65 genes. Candidate mutations that may underlie differences in the adaptation to the environment were exemplified by the genes AZGP1 and TAS2R40. We also observed that highly productive breeds may have lost advantageous genotypes within genes involve in immune response – e.g. IL12RB2 and STAB1–, probably as a result of strong artificial in the intensive production systems in pig.


The high correlation between genetic diversity computed with the 60K SNP and whole genome re-sequence data indicates that the Porcine 60K SNP Beadchip provides reliable estimates of genomic diversity in European pig populations despite the expected bias. Moreover, this analysis gave insights for strategies to the genetic characterization of local breeds. The comparison between re-sequenced local pigs and re-sequenced commercial pigs made it possible to report candidate mutations to be responsible for phenotypic divergence among those groups of breeds. This study highlights the importance of low input breeds as a valuable genetic reservoir for the pig production industry. However, the high levels of ROHs, inbreeding and potentially damaging mutations emphasize the importance of the genetic characterization of local breeds to preserve their genomic variability.