Application of molecular markers on genetic improvement and reproduction in the post-genomic Era: Emerging biotechnologies and perspectives in livestock
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Background: New challenges are rising in the animal protein market, and one of the main world challenges is to produce more in shorter time, with better quality and in a sustainable way. Brazil is the largest beef exporter in volume hence the factors affecting the beef meat chain are of major concern in countrýs economy. An emerging class of biotechnological approaches, the molecular markers, is bringing new perspectives to face these challenges, particularly after the publication of the first complete livestock genome (bovine), which has triggered a massive initiative to put in practice the benefits of the so called the Post-Genomic Era. Review: This article aimed at showing the directions and insights in the application of molecular markers on livestock genetic improvement and reproduction as well at organizing the progress so far, pointing some perspectives of these emerging technologies in Brazilian ruminant production context. An overview on the nature of the main molecular markers explored in ruminant production is provided, which describes the molecular bases and detection approaches available for microsatellites (STR) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). A topic is dedicated to review the history of association studies between markers and important trait variation in livestock, showing the timeline starting on quantitative trait loci (QTL) identification using STR markers and ending in high resolution SNP panels to proceed whole genome scans for phenotype/genotype association. Also the article organizes this information to reveal how QTL prospection using STR could open ground to the feasibility of marker-assisted selection and why this approach is quickly being replaced by studies involving the application of genome-wide association using SNP research in a new concept called genomic selection. Conclusion: The world's scientific community is dedicating effort and resources to apply SNP information in livestock selection through the development of high density panels for genomic association studies, connecting molecular genetic data with phenotypes of economic interest. Once generated, this information can be used to take decisions in genetic improvement programs by selecting animals with the assistance of molecular markers.