Background: Understanding the underlying pleiotropic relationships among quantitative traits is necessary in order to predict correlated responses to artificial selection. The availability of large-scale next-generation sequence data in cattle has provided an opportunity to examine whether pleiotropy is responsible for overlapping QTL in multiple economic traits. In the present study, we examined QTL affecting cattle stillbirth, calf size, and adult stature located in the same genomic region.
Results: A genome scan using imputed whole genome sequence variants revealed one QTL with large effects on the service sire calving index (SCI), and body conformation index (BCI) at the same location (~39 Mb) on chromosome 6 in Nordic Red cattle. The targeted region was analyzed for SCI and BCI component traits. The QTL peak included LCORL and NCAPG genes, which had been reported to influence fetal growth and adult stature in several species. The QTL exhibited large effects on calf size and stature in Nordic Red cattle. Two deviant haplotypes (HAP1 and HAP2) were resolved which increased calf size at birth, and affected adult body conformation. However, the haplotypes also resulted in increased calving difficulties and calf mortality due to increased calf size at birth. Haplotype locations overlapped, however linkage disequilibrium (LD) between the sites was low, suggesting that two independent mutations were responsible for similar effects. The difference in prevalence between the two haplotypes in Nordic Red subpopulations suggested independent origins in different populations.
Conclusions: Results of our study identified QTL with large effects on body conformation and service sire calving traits on chromosome 6 in cattle. We present robust evidence that variation at the LCORL and NCAPG locus affects calf size at birth and adult stature. We suggest the two deviant haplotypes within the QTL were due to two independent mutations.