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Genome-wide association study of lung lesions and pleurisy in New Zealand lambs

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posted on 2023-05-03, 14:03 authored by Kathryn McRaeKathryn McRae, Suzanne RoweSuzanne Rowe, Hayley BairdHayley Baird, Matthew Bixley, Shannon ClarkeShannon Clarke
Pneumonia is an important issue for sheep production, leading to reduced growth rate and a predisposition to pleurisy. The objective of this study was to identify loci associated with pneumonic lesions and pleurisy in New Zealand progeny test lambs. The lungs from 3,572 progeny-test lambs were scored for presence and severity of pneumonic lesions and pleurisy at slaughter. Animals were genotyped using the Illumina Ovine Infinium HD SNP BeadChip (606,006 markers). The heritability of lung lesion score and pleurisy were calculated using the genomic relationship matrix, and genome-wide association analyses were conducted using EMMAX and haplotype trend regression. At slaughter, 35% of lambs had pneumonic lesions, with 9% showing lesions on more than half of any individual lobe. The number of lambs recorded as having pleurisy by the processing plants was 9%. Heritability estimates for pneumonic lesions and pleurisy scores adjusted for heteroscedasticity (CPSa and PLEURa) were 0.16 (± 0.03) and 0.05 (± 0.02), respectively. Five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were significantly associated with pneumonic lesions at the genome-wide level, and additional 37 SNPs were suggestively significant. Four SNPs were significantly associated with pleurisy, with an additional 11 SNPs reaching the suggestive level of significance. There were no regions that overlapped between the 2 traits. Multiple SNPs were in regions that contained genes involved in either the DNA damage response or the innate immune response, including several that had previously been reported to have associations with respiratory disease. Both EMMAX and HTR analyses of pleurisy data showed a significant peak on chromosome 2, located downstream from the transcription factor SP3. SP3 activates or suppresses the expression of numerous genes, including several genes with known functions in the immune system. This study identified several SNPs associated with genes involved in both the innate immune response and the response to DNA damage that are associated with pneumonic lesions and pleurisy in lambs at slaughter. Additionally, the identification in sheep of several SNPs within genes that have previously been associated with the respiratory system in cattle, pigs, rats, and mice indicates that there may be common pathways that underlie the response to invasion by respiratory pathogens in multiple species.


Rights statement

© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Animal Science. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No


Oxford University Press

Journal title

Journal of Animal Science




McRae, K. M., Rowe, S. J., Baird, H. J., Bixley, M.J., & Clarke, S. M. (2018). Genome-wide association study of lung lesions and pleurisy in New Zealand lambs. Journal of Animal Science, 96(11), 4512–4520. doi:10.1093/jas/sky323

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