Genome-wide association for metabolic clusters in early-lactation Holstein dairy cows

H. Atashi, M. Salavati, J. De Koster, M. A. Crowe, G. Opsomer, M. Hostens*, the GplusE Consortium

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to detect the genomic region or regions associated with metabolic clusters in early-lactation Holstein cows. This study was carried out in 2 experiments. In experiment I, which was carried out on 105 multiparous Holstein cows, animals were classified through k-means clustering on log-transformed and standardized concentrations of blood glucose, insulin-like growth factor I, free fatty acids, and β-hydroxybutyrate at 14 and 35 d in milk (DIM), into metabolic clusters, either balanced (BAL) or other (OTR). Forty percent of the animals were categorized in the BAL group, and the remainder were categorized as OTR. The cows were genotyped for a total of 777,962 SNP. A genome-wide association study was performed, using a case-control approach through the GEMMA software, accounting for population structure. We found 8 SNP (BTA11, BTA23, and BTAX) associated with the predicted metabolic clusters. In experiment II, carried out on 4,267 second-parity Holstein cows, milk samples collected starting from the first week until 50 DIM were used to determine Fourier-transform mid-infrared (FT-MIR) spectra and subsequently to classify the animals into the same metabolic clusters (BAL vs. OTR). Twenty-eight percent of the animals were categorized in the BAL group, and the remainder were classified in the OTR category. Although daily milk yield was lower in BAL cows, we found no difference in daily fat- and protein-corrected milk yield in cows from the BAL metabolic cluster compared with those in the OTR metabolic cluster. In the next step, a single-step genomic BLUP was used to identify the genomic region(s) associated with the predicted metabolic clusters. The results revealed that prediction of metabolic clusters is a highly polygenic trait regulated by many small-sized effects. The region of 36,258 to 36,295 kb on BTA27 was the highly associated region for the predicted metabolic clusters, with the closest genes to this region (ANK1 and miR-486) being related to hematopoiesis, erythropoiesis, and mammary gland development. The heritability for metabolic clustering was 0.17 (SD 0.03), indicating that the use of FT-MIR spectra in milk to predict metabolic clusters in early-lactation across a large number of cows has satisfactory potential to be included in genetic selection programs for modern dairy cows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6392-6406
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • dairy cow
  • genome-wide association study
  • metabolic adaptation
  • transition period
  • Lactation/physiology
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Blood Glucose/metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified/blood
  • Milk/chemistry
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Pregnancy
  • Cattle/metabolism
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation/physiology
  • Milk Proteins/analysis
  • 3-Hydroxybutyric Acid/blood
  • Cluster Analysis


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