Esmaeili-Fard SM, Gholizadeh M, Hafezian SH, Abdollahi-Arpanahi R
PLoS ONE 16 (1) e0244408 [2021-01-22; online 2021-01-22]
Litter size is one of the most important economic traits in sheep. Identification of gene variants that are associated with the prolificacy rate is an important step in breeding program success and profitability of the farm. So, to identify genetic mechanisms underlying the variation in litter size in Iranian Baluchi sheep, a two-step genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed. GWAS was conducted using genotype data from 91 Baluchi sheep. Estimated breeding values (EBVs) for litter size calculated for 3848 ewes and then used as the response variable. Besides, a pathway analysis using GO and KEGG databases were applied as a complementary approach. A total of three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with litter size were identified, one each on OAR2, OAR10, and OAR25. The SNP on OAR2 is located within a novel putative candidate gene, Neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase 2. This gene product works as a receptor which is essential for follicular assembly, early follicular growth, and oocyte survival. The SNP on OAR25 is located within RAB4A which is involved in blood vessel formation and proliferation through angiogenesis. The SNP on OAR10 was not associated with any gene in the 1Mb span. Moreover, gene-set analysis using the KEGG database identified several pathways, such as Ovarian steroidogenesis, Steroid hormone biosynthesis, Calcium signaling pathway, and Chemokine signaling. Also, pathway analysis using the GO database revealed several functional terms, such as cellular carbohydrate metabolic, biological adhesion, cell adhesion, cell junction, and cell-cell adherens junction, among others. This is the first study that reports the NTRK2 gene affecting litter size in sheep and our study of this gene functions showed that this gene could be a good candidate for further analysis.