Dissecting closely linked association signals in combination with the mammalian phenotype database can identify candidate genes in dairy cattle

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Background: Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have been successfully implemented in cattle research and breeding. However, moving from the associations to identify the causal variants and reveal underlying mechanisms have proven complicated. In dairy cattle populations, we face a challenge due to long-range linkage disequilibrium (LD) arising from close familial relationships in the studied individuals. Long range LD makes it difficult to distinguish if one or multiple quantitative trait loci (QTL) are segregating in a genomic region showing association with a phenotype. We had two objectives in this study: 1) to distinguish between multiple QTL segregating in a genomic region, and 2) use of external information to prioritize candidate genes for a QTL along with the candidate variants. Results: We observed fixing the lead SNP as a covariate can help to distinguish additional close association signal(s). Thereafter, using the mammalian phenotype database, we successfully found candidate genes, in concordance with previous studies, demonstrating the power of this strategy. Secondly, we used variant annotation information to search for causative variants in our candidate genes. The variant information successfully identified known causal mutations and showed the potential to pinpoint the causative mutation(s) which are located in coding regions. Conclusions: Our approach can distinguish multiple QTL segregating on the same chromosome in a single analysis without manual input. Moreover, utilizing information from the mammalian phenotype database and variant effect predictor as post-GWAS analysis could benefit in candidate genes and causative mutations finding in cattle. Our study not only identified additional candidate genes for milk traits, but also can serve as a routine method for GWAS in dairy cattle.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalBMC Genetics
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2019

    Research areas

  • Candidate genes, Closely linked association signals, Dairy cattle, GWAS, Milk traits

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