X chromosome genes influence dairy cow performance

Publication BMC Genomics Sanchez & al.

X chromosome genes influence dairy cow performance

In cattle, as in other mammals, the genome is made up of several pairs of homologous chromosomes or autosomes (present in 29 pairs in cows) and a pair of sex chromosomes, X and Y. Females have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have one copy of each of the X and Y chromosomes. Females have 2 copies of the X chromosome, while males have one copy of each X and Y chromosome. Although it contains a large number of genes, the X chromosome is often overlooked in genomic studies, as it is present in only one copy in males. A team of INRAE and Eliance researchers from the Animal Genetics and Integrative Biology unit (GABI) has assessed the role of the X chromosome and the genes it harbors on key traits for the sustainability of cattle breeding. Their work, published in the journal BMC Genomics, reveals the importance of the X chromosome in the genetic determination of traits, and identifies the genes probably responsible for its effects.

The aim of the study was twofold: firstly, to assess the relative importance of autosomes and the X chromosome on genetic variability in milk production and composition, fertility, udder health and cow stature; and secondly, to identify the X chromosome regions and genes involved in the genetic determinism of the traits analyzed.

The researchers studied over 230,000 cows from 6 French dairy breeds. They used data on the cows' milk production, resistance to udder infections, fertility and stature, as well as genotyping data on over 50,000 genetic variants spread across the entire genome, including 1,147 on the X chromosome. By comparing several thousand complete bovine genome sequences, they were able to predict the genotypes of each cow of the 6 breeds studied for almost 200,000 variants listed on the X chromosome. They then looked for associations between these variants and traits of interest in each breed, and to increase the power and resolution of their study, they combined the results obtained in the different breeds in a meta-analysis.

The X chromosome contributes an average of 3.5% of the genetic variation observed between individuals. In all the breeds studied, fertility and udder health, which are the most difficult to select for due to their lower heritability, are also the traits most influenced by this chromosome. The researchers identified specific regions and genes on the X chromosome associated with these traits. All these results demonstrate that the X chromosome plays a significant role in the processes of milk production, resistance to mammary infections, reproduction and growth in cows.

These findings hold great promise for the genetic improvement of dairy cattle. The integration of X chromosome genotyping data into the genomic prediction models used in breeding today should enable a gain in precision and therefore a more efficient selection of the best performing animals, with better milk production, increased resistance to disease, easier reproduction and adapted stature. What's more, as most of the genes linked to the X chromosome are shared between mammals, these results open up new prospects for a better understanding of its involvement in the genetic architecture of traits in domestic cows and cattle, as well as in other species.

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Reference :
Sanchez M.-P., Escouflaire C., Baur A. et al. (2023). X-linked genes influence various complex traits in dairy cattle. BMC Genomics, 24, 338. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12864-023-09438-7

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Modification date : 05 October 2023 | Publication date : 07 July 2023 | Redactor : INRAE - Edition P. Huan