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Front Genet. 2013 Jan 11;3:307. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00307. eCollection 2012.

Inferring quantitative trait pathways associated with bull fertility from a genome-wide association study.

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Department of Animal Sciences, University of Wisconsin Madison, WI, USA.


Whole-genome association studies typically focus on genetic markers with the strongest evidence of association. However, single markers often explain only a small component of the genetic variance and hence offer a limited understanding of the trait under study. As such, the objective of this study was to perform a pathway-based association analysis in Holstein dairy cattle in order to identify relevant pathways involved in bull fertility. The results of a single-marker association analysis, using 1,755 bulls with sire conception rate data and genotypes for 38,650 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), were used in this study. A total of 16,819 annotated genes, including 2,767 significantly associated with bull fertility, were used to interrogate a total of 662 Gene Ontology (GO) terms and 248 InterPro (IP) entries using a test of proportions based on the cumulative hypergeometric distribution. After multiple-testing correction, 20 GO categories and one IP entry showed significant overrepresentation of genes statistically associated with bull fertility. Several of these functional categories such as small GTPases mediated signal transduction, neurogenesis, calcium ion binding, and cytoskeleton are known to be involved in biological processes closely related to male fertility. These results could provide insight into the genetic architecture of this complex trait in dairy cattle. In addition, this study shows that quantitative trait pathways inferred from single-marker analyses could enhance our interpretations of the results of genome-wide association studies.


gene ontology; gene-set analysis; genome-wide study; male fertility; quantitative trait pathway

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