Signatures of selection in the genome of Swedish warmblood horses selected for sport performance

BMC Genomics. 2019 Sep 18;20(1):717. doi: 10.1186/s12864-019-6079-1.


Background: A growing demand for improved physical skills and mental attitude in modern sport horses has led to strong selection for performance in many warmblood studbooks. The aim of this study was to detect genomic regions with low diversity, and therefore potentially under selection, in Swedish Warmblood horses (SWB) by analysing high-density SNP data. To investigate if such signatures could be the result of selection for equestrian sport performance, we compared our SWB SNP data with those from Exmoor ponies, a horse breed not selected for sport performance traits.

Results: The genomic scan for homozygous regions identified long runs of homozygosity (ROH) shared by more than 85% of the genotyped SWB individuals. Such ROH were located on ECA4, ECA6, ECA7, ECA10 and ECA17. Long ROH were instead distributed evenly across the genome of Exmoor ponies in 77% of the chromosomes. Two population differentiation tests (FST and XP-EHH) revealed signatures of selection on ECA1, ECA4, and ECA6 in SWB horses.

Conclusions: Genes related to behaviour, physical abilities and fertility, appear to be targets of selection in the SWB breed. This study provides a genome-wide map of selection signatures in SWB horses, and ground for further functional studies to unravel the biological mechanisms behind complex traits in horses.

Keywords: Haplotype homozygosity; Horse; Performance; Runs of homozygosity; Selection signature.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding*
  • Female
  • Genomics*
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Homozygote
  • Horses / genetics*
  • Horses / physiology
  • Inbreeding
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Sports*