A consistently high level of stallion fertility plays an economically important role in modern horse breeding. We performed a genome-wide association study for estimated breeding values of the paternal component of the pregnancy rate per estrus cycle (EBV-PAT) in Hanoverian stallions. A total of 228 Hanoverian stallions were genotyped using the Equine SNP50 Beadchip. The most significant association was found on horse chromosome 6 for a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) within phospholipase C zeta 1 (PLCz1). In the close neighbourhood to PLCz1 is located CAPZA3 (capping protein (actin filament) muscle Z-line, alpha 3). The gene PLCz1 encodes a protein essential for spermatogenesis and oocyte activation through sperm induced Ca2+-oscillation during fertilization. We derived equine gene models for PLCz1 and CAPZA3 based on cDNA and genomic DNA sequences. The equine PLCz1 had four different transcripts of which two contained a premature termination codon. Sequencing all exons and their flanking sequences using genomic DNA samples from 19 Hanoverian stallions revealed 47 polymorphisms within PLCz1 and one SNP within CAPZA3. Validation of these 48 polymorphisms in 237 Hanoverian stallions identified three intronic SNPs within PLCz1 as significantly associated with EBV-PAT. Bioinformatic analysis suggested regulatory effects for these SNPs via transcription factor binding sites or microRNAs. In conclusion, non-coding polymorphisms within PLCz1 were identified as conferring stallion fertility and PLCz1 as candidate locus for male fertility in Hanoverian warmblood. CAPZA3 could be eliminated as candidate gene for fertility in Hanoverian stallions.
Body size is an important characteristic for horses of various breeds and essential for the classification of ponies concerning the limit value of 148 cm (58.27 inches) height at the withers. Genome-wide association analyses revealed the highest associated quantitative trait locus for height at the withers on horse chromosome (ECA) 3 upstream of the candidate gene LCORL. Using 214 Hanoverian horses genotyped on the Illumina equine SNP50 BeadChip and 42 different horse breeds across all size ranges, we confirmed the highly associated single nucleotide polymorphism BIEC2-808543 (-log(10)P?=?8.3) and the adjacent gene LCORL as the most promising candidate for body size. We investigated the relative expression levels of LCORL and its two neighbouring genes NCAPG and DCAF16 using quantitative real-time PCR (RT-qPCR). We could demonstrate a significant association of the relative LCORL expression levels with the size of the horses and the BIEC2-808543 genotypes within and across horse breeds. In heterozygous C/T-horses expression levels of LCORL were significantly decreased by 40% and in homozygous C/C-horses by 56% relative to the smaller T/T-horses. Bioinformatic analyses indicated that this SNP T>C mutation is disrupting a putative binding site of the transcription factor TFIID which is important for the transcription process of genes involved in skeletal bone development. Thus, our findings suggest that expression levels of LCORL play a key role for body size within and across horse breeds and regulation of the expression of LCORL is associated with genetic variants of BIEC2-808543. This is the first functional study for a body size regulating polymorphism in horses and a further step to unravel the mechanisms for understanding the genetic regulation of body size in horses.
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