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J Anim Sci. 2013 Feb;91(2):605-12. doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-5580. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

Heritability and Bayesian genome-wide association study of first service conception and pregnancy in Brangus heifers.

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Department of Animal and Range Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces 88003.


Brangus [3/8 Brahman (Bos indicus) × 5/8 Angus (Bos taurus); n ≈ 800] heifers from 67 sires were used to estimate heritability and conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for 2 binary fertility traits: first service conception (FSC) and heifer pregnancy (HPG). Genotypes were from 53,692 loci on the BovineSNP50 (Infinium Bead Chips, Illumina, San Diego, CA). Yearling heifers were estrous synchronized, bred by AI, and then exposed to natural service breeding. Reproductive ultrasound and DNA-based parentage testing were used to determine if the heifer conceived by AI or natural service, and code for FSC and HPG traits. Success rates for FSC and HPG were 53.3% and 78.0% ± 0.01%, and corresponding heritability estimates were 0.18 ± 0.07 and 0.10 ± 0.06, respectively. The models used in obtaining these heritability estimates and GWAS included fixed effects of year (i.e., 2005 to 2007), birth location, calving season, age of dam, and contemporary group. In GWAS, simultaneous associations of 1 Mb SNP windows with phenotype were undertaken with Bayes C analyses using GenSel software. The 1 Mb windows contained 21.3 ± 1.1 SNP. Analyses fitted a mixture model that treated SNP effects as random, with an assumed fraction pi = 0.9995 having no effect on phenotype. The windows that accounted for 1.0% of genetic variance were considered as QTL associated with FSC or HPG. Eighteen QTL existed on 15 chromosomes for the 2 traits. On average, each QTL accounted for 2.43% ± 0.2% of the genetic variance. Chromosome 8 harbored 2 QTL for FSC and 1 for HPG; however, these regions did not overlap. Chromosomes 3, 15, 16, 19, 24, 26, 27, 29, and X included QTL only for FSC, whereas chromosomes 2, 4, 10, 13, and 20 contained QTL only for HPG. The multitude of QTL detected for FSC and HPG in this GWAS involving Brangus heifers exemplifies the complex regulation of variation in heifer fertility traits of low heritability.

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