Contribution of rare and low-frequency whole-genome sequence variants to complex traits variation in dairy cattle

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

BACKGROUND: Whole-genome sequencing and imputation methodologies have enabled the study of the effects of genomic variants with low to very low minor allele frequency (MAF) on variation in complex traits. Our objective was to estimate the proportion of variance explained by imputed sequence variants classified according to their MAF compared with the variance explained by the pedigree-based additive genetic relationship matrix for 17 traits in Nordic Holstein dairy cattle.

RESULTS: Imputed sequence variants were grouped into seven classes according to their MAF (0.001-0.01, 0.01-0.05, 0.05-0.1, 0.1-0.2, 0.2-0.3, 0.3-0.4 and 0.4-0.5). The total contribution of all imputed sequence variants to variance in deregressed estimated breeding values or proofs (DRP) for different traits ranged from 0.41 [standard error (SE) = 0.026] for temperament to 0.87 (SE = 0.011) for milk yield. The contribution of rare variants (MAF < 0.01) to the total DRP variance explained by all imputed sequence variants was relatively small (a maximum of 12.5% for the health index). Rare and low-frequency variants (MAF < 0.05) contributed a larger proportion of the explained DRP variances (>13%) for health-related traits than for production traits (<11%). However, a substantial proportion of these variance estimates across different MAF classes had large SE, especially when the variance explained by a MAF class was small. The proportion of DRP variance that was explained by all imputed whole-genome sequence variants improved slightly compared with variance explained by the 50 k Illumina markers, which are routinely used in bovine genomic prediction. However, the proportion of DRP variance explained by imputed sequence variants was lower than that explained by pedigree relationships, ranging from 1.5% for milk yield to 37.9% for the health index.

CONCLUSIONS: Imputed sequence variants explained more of the variance in DRP than the 50 k markers for most traits, but explained less variance than that captured by pedigree-based relationships. Although in humans partitioning variants into groups based on MAF and linkage disequilibrium was used to estimate heritability without bias, many of our bovine estimates had a high SE. For a reliable estimate of the explained DRP variance for different MAF classes, larger sample sizes are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number60
JournalGenetics Selection Evolution
Issue number1
Number of pages11
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017


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