Identification of loci associated with susceptibility to bovine paratuberculosis and with the dysregulation of the MECOM, eEF1A2, and U1 spliceosomal RNA expression

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 11;11(1):313. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-79619-x.


Although genome-wide association studies have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with the susceptibility to Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) infection, only a few functional mutations for bovine paratuberculosis (PTB) have been characterized. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) are genetic variants typically located in gene regulatory regions that alter gene expression in an allele-specific manner. eQTLs can be considered as functional links between genomic variants, gene expression, and ultimately phenotype. In the current study, peripheral blood (PB) and ileocecal valve (ICV) gene expression was quantified by RNA-Seq from fourteen Holstein cattle with no lesions and with PTB-associated histopathological lesions in gut tissues. Genotypes were generated from the Illumina LD EuroG10K BeadChip. The associations between gene expression levels (normalized read counts) and genetic variants were analyzed by a linear regression analysis using R Matrix eQTL 2.2. This approach allowed the identification of 192 and 48 cis-eQTLs associated with the expression of 145 and 43 genes in the PB and ICV samples, respectively. To investigate potential relationships between these cis-eQTLs and MAP infection, a case-control study was performed using the genotypes for all the identified cis-eQTLs and phenotypical data (histopathology, ELISA for MAP-antibodies detection, tissue PCR, and bacteriological culture) of 986 culled cows. Our results suggested that the heterozygous genotype in the cis-eQTL-rs43744169 (T/C) was associated with the up-regulation of the MDS1 and EVI1 complex (MECOM) expression, with positive ELISA, PCR, and bacteriological culture results, and with increased risk of progression to clinical PTB. As supporting evidence, the presence of the minor allele was associated with higher MECOM levels in plasma samples from infected cows and with increased MAP survival in an ex-vivo macrophage killing assay. Moreover, the presence of the two minor alleles in the cis-eQTL-rs110345285 (C/C) was associated with the dysregulation of the eukaryotic elongation factor 1-α2 (eEF1A2) expression and with increased ELISA (OD) values. Finally, the presence of the minor allele in the cis-eQTL rs109859270 (C/T) was associated with the up-regulation of the U1 spliceosomal RNA expression and with an increased risk of progression to clinical PTB. The introduction of these novel functional variants into marker-assisted breeding programs is expected to have a relevant effect on PTB control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • MDS1 and EVI1 Complex Locus Protein / genetics*
  • Paratuberculosis / genetics*
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1 / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics*
  • Spliceosomes / genetics*


  • MDS1 and EVI1 Complex Locus Protein
  • Peptide Elongation Factor 1