Genomic association for sexual precocity in beef heifers using pre-selection of genes and haplotype reconstruction
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Reproductive traits are of the utmost importance for any livestock farming, but are difficult to measure and to interpret since they are influenced by various factors. The objective of this study was to detect associations between known polymorphisms in candidate genes related to sexual precocity in Nellore heifers, which could be used in breeding programs. Records of 1,689 precocious and non-precocious heifers from farms participating in the Conexão Delta G breeding program were analyzed. A subset of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) located in the region of the candidate genes at a distance of up to 5 kb from the boundaries of each gene, were selected from the panel of 777,000 SNPs of the High-Density Bovine SNP BeadChip. Linear mixed models were used for statistical analysis of early heifer pregnancy, relating the trait with isolated SNPs or with haplotype groups. The model included the contemporary group (year and month of birth) as fixed effect and parent of the animal (sire effect) as random effect. The fastPHASE® and GenomeStudio® were used for reconstruction of the haplotypes and for analysis of linkage disequilibrium based on r2 statistics. A total of 125 candidate genes and 2,024 SNPs forming haplotypes were analyzed. Statistical analysis after Bonferroni correction showed that nine haplotypes exerted a significant effect (p<0.05) on sexual precocity. Four of these haplotypes were located in the Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A2 gene (PAPP-A2), two in the Estrogen-related receptor gamma gene (ESRRG), and one each in the Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A gene (PAPPA), Kell blood group complex subunit-related family (XKR4) and mannose-binding lectin genes (MBL-1) genes. Although the present results indicate that the PAPP-A2, PAPP-A, XKR4, MBL-1 and ESRRG genes influence sexual precocity in Nellore heifers, further studies are needed to evaluate their possible use in breeding programs.
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