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Genomic tools for the identification of loci associated with facial eczema in New Zealand sheep

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posted on 2023-05-03, 20:47 authored by Kathryn McRaeKathryn McRae, Suzanne RoweSuzanne Rowe, Patricia Johnson, Hayley BairdHayley Baird, Neil Cullen, Matthew Bixley, Jeffrey Plowman, Santanu Deb-Choudhury, Rudiger BrauningRudiger Brauning, Neville AmyesNeville Amyes, Ken Dodds, Sheryl-Anne Newman, John McEwanJohn McEwan, Shannon ClarkeShannon Clarke
Facial eczema (FE) is a significant metabolic disease that affects New Zealand ruminants. Ingestion of the mycotoxin sporidesmin leads to liver and bile duct damage, which can result in photosensitisation, reduced productivity and death. Strategies used to manage the incidence and severity of the disease include breeding. In sheep, there is considerable genetic variation in the response to FE. A commercial testing program is available for ram breeders who aim to increase tolerance, determined by the concentration of the serum enzyme, gamma-glutamyltransferase 21 days after a measured sporidesmin challenge (GGT21). Genome-wide association studies were carried out to determine regions of the genome associated with GGT21. Two regions on chromosomes 15 and 24 are reported, which explain 5% and 1% of the phenotypic variance in the response to FE, respectively. The region on chromosome 15 contains the β-globin locus. Of the significant SNPs in the region, one is a missense variant within the haemoglobin subunit β (HBB) gene. Mass spectrometry of haemoglobin from animals with differing genotypes at this locus indicated that genotypes are associated with different forms of adult β-globin. Haemoglobin haplotypes have previously been associated with variation in several health-related traits in sheep and warrant further investigation regarding their role in tolerance to FE in sheep. We show a strategic approach to the identification of regions of importance for commercial breeding programs with a combination of discovery, statistical and biological validation. This study highlights the power of using increased density genotyping for the identification of influential genomic regions, combined with subsequent inclusion on lower density genotyping platforms.


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Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).


  • English

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McRae, K. M., Rowe, S. J., Johnson, P. L., Baird, H. J., Cullen, N. G., Bixley, M. J., Plowman, J. E., Deb-Choudhury, S., Brauning, R., Amyes, N. C., Dodds, K. G., Newman, S.-A. N., McEwan, J. C., & Clarke, S. M. (2021). Genomic tools for the identification of loci associated with facial eczema in New Zealand sheep. Genes, 12(10), 1560.

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