Genome-wide association and functional genomic analyses for various hoof health traits in North American Holstein cattle

J Dairy Sci. 2023 Nov 6:S0022-0302(23)00779-8. doi: 10.3168/jds.2023-23806. Online ahead of print.


Hoof diseases is a major welfare and economic issue in the worldwide dairy cattle production industry, which can be minimized through improved management and breeding practices. Optimal genetic improvement of hoof health could benefit from a deep understanding of the genetic background and biological underpinning of indicators of hoof health. Therefore, the primary objectives of this study were to perform genome-wide association studies, using imputed high-density genetic markers data from North American Holstein cattle, for 8 hoof-related traits: digital dermatitis, sole ulcer, sole hemorrhage, white line lesion, heel horn erosion, interdigital dermatitis, interdigital hyperplasia, and toe ulcer, and a hoof health index. De-regressed estimated breeding values (dEBVs) from 25,580 Holstein animals were used as pseudo-phenotypes for the association analyses. The genomic quality control, genotype phasing, and genotype imputation were performed using the PLINK, Eagle, and Minimac4 software, respectively. The functional genomic analyses were performed using the GALLO R package and the DAVID platform. Twenty-two, 34, 14, 22, 28, 33, 24, 43, and 15 significant markers were identified for digital dermatitis, heel horn erosion, interdigital dermatitis, interdigital hyperplasia, sole hemorrhage, sole ulcer, toe ulcer, white line lesion disease, and the hoof health index, respectively. The significant markers were located across all autosomes, except BTA10, BTA12, BTA20, BTA26, BTA27, and BTA28. Moreover, the genomic regions identified overlap with various previously reported quantitative trait loci (QTL) for exterior, health, meat and carcass, milk, production, and reproduction traits. The enrichment analyses identified 44 significant gene ontology terms. These enriched genomic regions harbor various candidate genes previously associated with bone development, metabolism, and infectious and immunological diseases. These findings indicate that hoof health traits are highly polygenic and influenced by a wide range of biological processes.

Keywords: Dairy cattle; digital dermatitis; disease resistance; hoof disease.