Genetic linkage mapping of quantitative trait loci for behavioral and neuroendocrine stress response traits in pigs

J Anim Sci. 2002 Sep;80(9):2276-85. doi: 10.2527/2002.8092276x.


A QTL analysis of behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to a "novel environment" stress was conducted in a three-generation experimental cross between Meishan and Large White pig breeds. A total of 186 F2 males and 182 F2 females were studied for their behavioral and neuroendocrine reactivity to a novel environment test at 6 wk of age. Locomotion, vocalization, and defecation rate, as well as exploration time, were measured for 10 min. Blood samples were taken immediately before and after the test to measure plasma levels of ACTH, cortisol, and glucose. Animals were typed for a total of 137 markers covering the entire porcine genome. Analyses were performed using two interval mapping methods: a line-cross regression method, where founder lines were assumed to be fixed for different QTL alleles, and a half-/full-sib maximum likelihood method where allele substitution effects were estimated within each half-/full-sib family. Both methods revealed a highly significant gene effect for poststress cortisol level (P < 0.001) and a significant effect for basal cortisol level (P < 0.05) at the end of the q arm of chromosome 7, explaining, respectively, 20% and 7% of the phenotypic variance. Meishan alleles are associated with higher cortisol levels and are partially dominant (for poststress levels) over Large White alleles. Other significant gene effects on biological measures were detected on chromosomes 1 and 17 (ACTH response to stress), 3, 5, and 8 (glucose levels). The SSC 17 QTL explains 12% of the phenotypic variance of poststress ACTH levels, with a suggestive evidence of imprinting effects. Meishan alleles are associated with lower poststress ACTH levels. Gene effects of low amplitude only were found for behavioral reactivity traits. Considering the effects of stress neuroendocrine systems on energy fluxes and protein deposition, and the importance of stress reactivity for meat quality and animal welfare, these results open new perspectives for pig selection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Chromosome Mapping / veterinary
  • Defecation / physiology
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Genetic Linkage*
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Genotype
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Stress, Physiological / veterinary
  • Swine / genetics*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone