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Host genetic architecture is a major factor in resistance to pathogens and parasites. The collection and analysis of sufficient data on both disease resistance and host genetics has, however, been a major obstacle to dissection the genetics of resistance to single or multiple pathogens. A severe challenge in the estimation of heritabilities and genetic correlations from pedigree-based studies has been the confounding effects of the common environment shared among relatives which are difficult to model in pedigree analyses, especially for health traits with low incidence rates. To circumvent this problem we used genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism data and implemented the Genomic-Restricted Maximum Likelihood (G-REML) method to estimate the heritabilities and genetic correlations for resistance to 23 different infectious pathogens in calves and cows in populations undergoing natural pathogen challenge. Furthermore, we conducted gene-based analysis and generalized gene-set analysis to understand the biological background of resistance to infectious diseases. The results showed relatively higher heritabilities of resistance in calves than in cows and significant pleiotropy (both positive and negative) among some calf and cow resistance traits. We also found significant pleiotropy between resistance and performance in both calves and cows. Finally, we confirmed the role of the B-lymphocyte pathway as one of the most important biological pathways associated with resistance to all pathogens. These results both illustrate the potential power of these approaches to illuminate the genetics of pathogen resistance in cattle and provide foundational information for future genomic selection aimed at improving the overall production fitness of cattle.
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- Deanery of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences - Programme Leader/ Professorial Fellow
- MRC Human Genetics Unit
Person: Academic: Research Active