Unravelling the genomic architecture of bull fertility in Holstein cattle
Bovine leukosis virus is an oncogenic virus that infects B cells, causing bovine leukosis disease. This disease is known to have a negative impact on dairy cattle production and, because no treatment or vaccine is available, finding a possible genetic solution is important. Our objective was to perform a comprehensive genetic analysis of leukosis incidence in dairy cattle. Data on leukosis occurrence, pedigree and molecular information were combined into multitrait GBLUP models with milk yield (MY) and somatic cell score (SCS) to estimate genetic parameters and to perform whole-genome scans and pathway analysis. Leukosis data were available for 11 554 Holsteins daughters of 3002 sires from 112 herds in 16 US states. Genotypes from a 60K SNP panel were available for 961 of those bulls as well as for 2039 additional bulls. Heritability for leukosis incidence was estimated at about 8%, and the genetic correlations of leukosis disease incidence with MY and SCS were moderate at 0.18 and 0.20 respectively. The genome-wide scan indicated that leukosis is a complex trait, possibly modulated by many genes. The gene set analysis identified many functional terms that showed significant enrichment of genes associated with leukosis. Many of these terms, such as G-Protein Coupled Receptor Signaling Pathway, Regulation of Nucleotide Metabolic Process and different calcium-related processes, are known to be related to retrovirus infection. Overall, our findings contribute to a better understanding of the genetic architecture of this complex disease. The functional categories associated with leukosis may be useful in future studies on fine mapping of genes and development of dairy cattle breeding strategies.