Single-step genome-wide association analyses of claw horn lesions in Holstein cattle using linear and threshold models

Bingjie Li*, Matthew Barden, Vanessa Kapsona, Enrique Sánchez-Molano, Alkiviadis Anagnostopoulos, Bethany Eloise Griffiths, Cherril Bedford, Xiaoxia Dai, Mike Coffey, Androniki Psifidi, Georgios Oikonomou, Georgios Banos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Lameness in dairy cattle is primarily caused by foot lesions including the claw horn lesions (CHL) of sole haemorrhage (SH), sole ulcers (SU), and white line disease (WL). This study investigated the genetic architecture of the three CHL based on detailed animal phenotypes of CHL susceptibility and severity. Estimation of genetic parameters and breeding values, single-step genome-wide association analyses, and functional enrichment analyses were performed.

RESULTS: The studied traits were under genetic control with a low to moderate heritability. Heritability estimates of SH and SU susceptibility on the liability scale were 0.29 and 0.35, respectively. Heritability of SH and SU severity were 0.12 and 0.07, respectively. Heritability of WL was relatively lower, indicating stronger environmental influence on the presence and development of WL than the other two CHL. Genetic correlations between SH and SU were high (0.98 for lesion susceptibility and 0.59 for lesion severity), whereas genetic correlations of SH and SU with WL also tended to be positive. Candidate quantitative trait loci (QTL) were identified for all CHL, including some on Bos taurus chromosome (BTA) 3 and 18 with potential pleiotropic effects associated with multiple foot lesion traits. A genomic window of 0.65 Mb on BTA3 explained 0.41, 0.50, 0.38, and 0.49% of the genetic variance for SH susceptibility, SH severity, WL susceptibility, and WL severity, respectively. Another window on BTA18 explained 0.66, 0.41, and 0.70% of the genetic variance for SH susceptibility, SU susceptibility, and SU severity, respectively. The candidate genomic regions associated with CHL harbour annotated genes that are linked to immune system function and inflammation responses, lipid metabolism, calcium ion activities, and neuronal excitability.

CONCLUSIONS: The studied CHL are complex traits with a polygenic mode of inheritance. Most traits exhibited genetic variation suggesting that animal resistance to CHL can be improved with breeding. The CHL traits were positively correlated, which will facilitate genetic improvement for resistance to CHL as a whole. Candidate genomic regions associated with lesion susceptibility and severity of SH, SU, and WL provide insights into a global profile of the genetic background underlying CHL and inform genetic improvement programmes aiming at enhancing foot health in dairy cattle.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16
JournalGenetics, selection, evolution : GSE
Issue number1
Early online date10 Mar 2023
Publication statusFirst published - 10 Mar 2023


  • Cattle
  • Animals
  • Cattle Diseases/genetics
  • Genome-Wide Association Study/veterinary
  • Hoof and Claw
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci


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