Inbreeding and purging at the genomic Level: the Chillingham cattle reveal extensive, non-random SNP heterozygosity

J. L. Williams, S. J.G. Hall, M. Del Corvo, K. T. Ballingall, Licia Colli, Paolo Ajmone Marsan, F. Biscarini

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivista

18 Citazioni (Scopus)


Local breeds of livestock are of conservation significance as components of global biodiversity and as reservoirs of genetic variation relevant to the future sustainability of agriculture. One such rare historic breed, the Chillingham cattle of northern England, has a 350-year history of isolation and inbreeding yet shows no diminution of viability or fertility. The Chillingham cattle have not been subjected to selective breeding. It has been suggested previously that the herd has minimal genetic variation. In this study, high-density SNP genotyping with the 777K SNP chip showed that 9.1% of loci on the chip are polymorphic in the herd, compared with 62-90% seen in commercial cattle breeds. Instead of being homogeneously distributed along the genome, these loci are clustered at specific chromosomal locations. A high proportion of the Chillingham individuals examined were heterozygous at many of these polymorphic loci, suggesting that some loci are under balancing selection. Some of these frequently heterozygous loci have been implicated as sites of recessive lethal mutations in cattle. Linkage disequilibrium equal or close to 100% was found to span up to 1350 kb, and LD was above r2 = 0.25 up to more than 5000 kb. This strong LD is consistent with the lack of polymorphic loci in the herd. The heterozygous regions in the Chillingham cattle may be the locations of genes relevant to fitness or survival, which may help elucidate the biology of local adaptation in traditional breeds and facilitate selection for such traits in commercial cattle
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)19-27
RivistaAnimal Genetics
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2016


  • Animal genetic resources
  • Bos taurus


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