Whole-genome sequencing reveals mutational landscape underlying phenotypic differences between two widespread Chinese cattle breeds


Whole-genome sequencing provides a powerful tool to obtain more genetic variability that could produce a range of benefits for cattle breeding industry. Nanyang (Bos indicus) and Qinchuan (Bos taurus) are two important Chinese indigenous cattle breeds with distinct phenotypes. To identify the genetic characteristics responsible for variation in phenotypes between the two breeds, in the present study, we for the first time sequenced the genomes of four Nanyang and four Qinchuan cattle with 10 to 12 fold on average of 97.86% and 98.98% coverage of genomes, respectively. Comparison with the Bos_taurus_UMD_3.1 reference assembly yielded 9,010,096 SNPs for Nanyang, and 6,965,062 for Qinchuan cattle, 51% and 29% of which were novel SNPs, respectively. A total of 154,934 and 115,032 small indels (1 to 3 bp) were found in the Nanyang and Qinchuan genomes, respectively. The SNP and indel distribution revealed that Nanyang showed a genetically high diversity as compared to Qinchuan cattle. Furthermore, a total of 2,907 putative cases of copy number variation (CNV) were identified by aligning Nanyang to Qinchuan genome, 783 of which (27%) encompassed the coding regions of 495 functional genes. The gene ontology (GO) analysis revealed that many CNV genes were enriched in the immune system and environment adaptability. Among several CNV genes related to lipid transport and fat metabolism, Lepin receptor gene (LEPR) overlapping with CNV_1815 showed remarkably higher copy number in Qinchuan than Nanyang (log2 (ratio) = -2.34988; P value = 1.53E-102). Further qPCR and association analysis investigated that the copy number of the LEPR gene presented positive correlations with transcriptional expression and phenotypic traits, suggesting the LEPR CNV may contribute to the higher fat deposition in muscles of Qinchuan cattle. Our findings provide evidence that the distinct phenotypes of Nanyang and Qinchuan breeds may be due to the different genetic variations including SNPs, indels and CNV.

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