High-resolution analysis of selection sweeps identified between fine-wool Merino and coarse-wool Churra sheep breeds

Beatriz Gutiérrez-Gil, Cristina Esteban-Blanco, Pamela Wiener, Praveen Krishna Chitneedi, Aroa Suarez-Vega, Juan-Jose Arranz

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BACKGROUND: With the aim of identifying selection signals in three Merino sheep lines that are highly specialized for fine wool production (Australian Industry Merino, Australian Merino and Australian Poll Merino) and considering that these lines have been subjected to selection not only for wool traits but also for growth and carcass traits and parasite resistance, we contrasted the OvineSNP50 BeadChip (50 K-chip) pooled genotypes of these Merino lines with the genotypes of a coarse-wool breed, phylogenetically related breed, Spanish Churra dairy sheep. Genome re-sequencing datasets of the two breeds were analyzed to further explore the genetic variation of the regions initially identified as putative selection signals.

RESULTS: Based on the 50 K-chip genotypes, we used the overlapping selection signals (SS) identified by four selection sweep mapping analyses (that detect genetic differentiation, reduced heterozygosity and patterns of haplotype diversity) to define 18 convergence candidate regions (CCR), five associated with positive selection in Australian Merino and the remainder indicating positive selection in Churra. Subsequent analysis of whole-genome sequences from 15 Churra and 13 Merino samples identified 142,400 genetic variants (139,745 bi-allelic SNPs and 2655 indels) within the 18 defined CCR. Annotation of 1291 variants that were significantly associated with breed identity between Churra and Merino samples identified 257 intragenic variants that caused 296 functional annotation variants, 275 of which were located across 31 coding genes. Among these, four synonymous and four missense variants (NPR2_His847Arg, NCAPG_Ser585Phe, LCORL_Asp1214Glu and LCORL_Ile1441Leu) were included.

CONCLUSIONS: Here, we report the mapping and genetic variation of 18 selection signatures that were identified between Australian Merino and Spanish Churra sheep breeds, which were validated by an additional contrast between Spanish Merino and Churra genotypes. Analysis of whole-genome sequencing datasets allowed us to identify divergent variants that may be viewed as candidates involved in the phenotypic differences for wool, growth and meat production/quality traits between the breeds analyzed. The four missense variants located in the NPR2, NCAPG and LCORL genes may be related to selection sweep regions previously identified and various QTL reported in sheep in relation to growth traits and carcass composition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81
JournalGenetics Selection Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2017


  • Journal Article


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