Genomic loci and genetic parameters for uterine diseases in first-parity Holstein cows and associations with milk production and fertility

J Dairy Sci. 2022 Jan;105(1):509-524. doi: 10.3168/jds.2021-20685. Epub 2021 Oct 14.


Based on the clinical stage (e.g., vaginal discharge) and bacterial species, several forms of uterine diseases (UD) exist and can be classified as different traits [i.e., different stages of endometritis (EM) and metritis (MET)], which may differ in their genetic background and causal physiological mechanisms. Consequently, the present study aimed to study (1) the effect of UD on 305-d lactation and fertility, (2) the estimation of heritabilities for UD traits using pedigree- and SNP-based relationships, and (3) genome-wide associations to detect significant SNP markers and to infer candidate genes for UD traits. The data set contained herd manager and veterinarian recorded UD traits of 14,810 first-lactating genotyped Holstein cows from 63 large-scale contract herds. Binary defined UD traits (healthy or diseased) according to the clinical stage were endometritis catarrhalis (EM I), endometritis mucopurulenta (EM II), endometritis purulenta (EM III), pyometra (EM IV), endometritis (EM_SOD; superordinate diagnosis = no specific clinical stage defined), and MET. The binary defined trait UDall included all EM and MET diagnoses. The prevalence of UDall was 26.7%. The effect of UD on 305-d lactation and fertility was estimated via linear and generalized linear mixed models. We applied linear single-trait animal models and threshold models to estimate pedigree- and SNP-based heritabilities for UD traits, and bivariate linear models for genetic correlation estimations between UDall with 305-d lactation and fertility traits. A diagnosis for UDall had significant unfavorable effects on the female fertility traits calving interval, interval from calving to first service, days open, and nonreturn rate after 90 d, but was unrelated to 305-d lactation records for production traits milk yield, protein yield, and fat yield. Heritabilities for UDall and EM stages were close to zero, displaying maximal values of 0.05 for pedigree and 0.07 for SNP-based relationship matrices. For MET, pedigree- and SNP-based heritabilities were <0.001 and 0.07, respectively. Genetic correlations ranged from 0.20 to 0.31 between UDall with 305-d milk, protein, and fat yield, and from 0.17 to 0.40 with fertility traits. The GWAS revealed 5 SNP on bovine chromosomes (BTA) 1, 8, 10, 23 for UDall, 5 SNP on BTA 26 for EM I, 1 SNP on BTA 19 for EM II, 4 SNP on BTA 2, 18, 20, 25 for EM III, and 4 SNP on BTA 4, 16, 20 for EM IV above the significance threshold. For EM_SOD, we identified 15 significantly associated SNP on 4 chromosomes, and 4 significant SNP on BTA 3, 20, 22, 28 for MET. Marker associations for UD traits were annotated to 24 potential candidate genes using the ENSEMBL database. Six of these genes were previously reported to be involved in uterine defense mechanisms or in endometritis. Further detected genes contribute to immune response mechanisms during bacterial infections. Different SNP significantly influenced different UD stages, explaining the inter-individual variations in clinical severity of uterine infections.

Keywords: candidate gene; endometritis; genetic parameter; genome-wide association.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / genetics
  • Female
  • Fertility / genetics
  • Genomics
  • Lactation* / genetics
  • Milk
  • Parity
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Uterine Diseases* / veterinary