Identification of genomic regions associated with total and progressive sperm motility in Italian Holstein bulls

J. Ramirez-Diaz*, S. Cenadelli, V. Bornaghi, G. Bongioni, S. M. Montedoro, A. Achilli, C. Capelli, J. C. Rincon, M. Milanesi, Matilde Maria Passamonti, Licia Colli, Mario Barbato, John Lewis Williams, Paolo Ajmone Marsan

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sperm motility is directly related to the ability of sperm to move through the female reproductive tract to reach the ovum. Sperm motility is a complex trait that is influenced by environmental and genetic factors and is associated with male fertility, oocyte penetration rate, and reproductive success of cattle. In this study we carried out a GWAS in Italian Holstein bulls to identify candidate regions and genes associated with variations in progressive and total motility (PM and TM, respectively). After quality control, the final data set consisted of 5,960 records from 949 bulls having semen collected in 10 artificial insemination stations and genotyped at 412,737 SNPs (call rate >95%; minor allele frequency >5%). (Co)variance components were estimated using single trait mixed models, and associations between SNPs and phenotypes were assessed using a genomic BLUP approach. Ten windows that explained the greatest percentage of genetic variance were located on Bos taurus autosomes 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 23, and 26 for TM and Bos taurus autosomes 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 16, 23, and 26 for PM. A total of 150 genes for TM and 72 genes for PM were identified within these genomic regions. Gene Ontology enrichment analyses identified significant Gene Ontology terms involved with energy homeostasis, membrane functions, sperm-egg interactions, protection against oxidative stress, olfactory receptors, and immune system. There was significant enrichment of quantitative trait loci for fertility, calving ease, immune response, feed intake, and carcass weight within the candidate windows. These results contribute to understanding the architecture of the genetic control of sperm motility and may aid in the development of strategies to identify subfertile bulls and improve reproductive success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-420
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • candidate genes
  • dairy bulls
  • genome-wide association
  • semen quality


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