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Physiol Genomics. 2007 Mar 14;29(1):57-65. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Population and systems genetics analyses of cortisol in pigs divergently selected for stress.

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Institute of Animal Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH-Zentrum, Zurich, Switzerland.

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  • Physiol Genomics. 2009 May 13;37(3):303.


This study presents a systems genetic analysis on the physiology of cortisol in mice and pigs with an aim to show the potential of a comprehensive computational approach to quickly identify candidate genes and avoid a costly whole-genome quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping. Population genetics analyses were performed on measurements of cortisol from a pig selection experiment. Expression QTL were mapped and gene networks were built using gene expressions for Crhr1 (corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor) gene and single nucleotide polymorphisms from public mouse data. Results from mouse data were used to infer potential candidate regulatory genes involved in pig cortisol regulation, using a comparative or translational systems genetics approach. The pig data used were from a 10-yr divergent genetic selection experiment, providing data on 417 individuals. Population genetics analysis showed that cortisol is highly genetically determined with heritabilities of 0.40-0.70. Furthermore, a major gene with an additive effect of 86 ng/ml is segregating. Genetical-genomics investigations revealed two trans-acting eQTL for Crhr1 gene expression on chromosomes 2 and 13. Candidate gene search under trans-eQTL peaks yielded 63 genes for Crhr1 expression phenotypes. Functional links for Crhr1 genes with other genes/proteins in the gene network using mouse data were shown for the first 10 statistically significant genes involved. Results show translational or comparative systems genetics approaches reduce costs and time in large-scale genetics and "-omics" investigations. This is the first study to report a strong genetic basis for cortisol physiology using a systems approach.

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