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J Dairy Sci. 2003 Dec;86(12):4137-47.

Genetic diversity and background linkage disequilibrium in the North American Holstein cattle population.

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Department of Dairy and Animal Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park 16802, USA.


The objectives of this study were to 1) identify highly heterozygous Holstein bulls that are as unrelated as possible and widely used in the US dairy industry; 2) quantify the level of genetic diversity in US Holsteins; and 3) determine the extent of background linkage disequilibrium (BLD) and disease trait associated linkage disequilibrium (DLD) in the US Holstein population. Twenty-three Holstein bulls that are not closely related but were widely used in the US dairy industry were genotyped for 54 microsatellite loci. The genotyping was performed on automated DNA sequencers (PE Applied Biosystems, CA), following polymerase chain reaction amplification with fluorescent dye-labeled primers. The heterozygosity for the sampled population ranged from 0.43 to 0.80. This wide range of heterozygosity allows selection of the most heterozygous bulls to develop informative families for gene mapping studies. The degree of genetic diversity in this population is significant and allows selection for traits of economic importance. As expected, there is extensive linkage disequilibrium (LD) in the US Holstein population. About half of the syntenic marker pairs presented a typical pattern of LD produced by DLD. Most of the nonsyntenic marker pairs had a typical pattern of LD arising from BLD. These results suggest that the observed LD is not purely due to genetic drift and migration and that a portion might be due to DLD. This raises our hopes of successful fine-localization of genes for complex traits using LD mapping.

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