Fine-mapping host genetic variation underlying outcomes to Mycobacterium bovis infection in dairy cows

Samantha Wilkinson, Stephen Bishop, A.R. Allen, Robin Skuce, S.H. McBride, Mairead Bermingham, John Woolliams, Elizabeth Glass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Susceptibility to Mycobacterium bovis infection in cattle is governed in part by host genetics. However, cattle diagnosed as infected with M. bovis display varying signs of pathology. The variation in host response to infection could represent a continuum since time of exposure or distinct outcomes due to differing pathogen handling. The relationships between host genetics and variation in host response and pathological sequelae following M. bovis infection were explored by genotyping 1966 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows at 538,231 SNPs with three distinct phenotypes. These were: single intradermal cervical comparative tuberculin (SICCT) test positives with visible lesions (VLs), SICCT-positives with undetected visible lesions (NVLs) and matched controls SICCT-negative on multiple occasions.

Regional heritability mapping identified three loci associated with the NVL phenotype on chromosomes 17, 22 and 23, distinct to the region on chromosome 13 associated with the VL phenotype. The region on chromosome 23 was at genome-wide significance and candidate genes overlapping the mapped window included members of the bovine leukocyte antigen class IIb region, a complex known for its role in immunity and disease resistance. Chromosome heritability analysis attributed variance to six and thirteen chromosomes for the VL and NVL phenotypes, respectively, and four of these chromosomes were found to explain a proportion of the phenotypic variation for both the VL and NVL phenotype. By grouping the M. bovis outcomes (VLs and NVLs) variance was attributed to nine chromosomes. When contrasting the two M. bovis infection outcomes (VLs vs NVLs) nine chromosomes were found to harbour heritable variation. Regardless of the case phenotype under investigation, chromosome heritability did not exceed 8% indicating that the genetic control of bTB resistance consists of variants of small to moderate effect situated across many chromosomes of the bovine genome.

These findings suggest the host genetics of M. bovis infection outcomes is governed by distinct and overlapping genetic variants. Thus, variation in the pathology of M. bovis infected cattle may be partly genetically determined and indicative of different host responses or pathogen handling. There may be at least three distinct outcomes following M. bovis exposure in dairy cattle: resistance to infection, infection resulting in pathology or no detectable pathology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number477
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Bovine tuberculosis
  • cattle
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • genetic variants


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