Adrenal cortex expression quantitative trait loci in a German Holstein × Charolais cross

Bodo Brand, Markus O. Scheinhardt, Juliane Friedrich, Daisy Zimmer, Norbert Reinsch, Siriluck Ponsuksili, Manfred Schwerin, Andreas Ziegler*

*Corresponding author for this work
3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The importance of the adrenal gland in regard to lactation and reproduction in cattle has been recognized early. Caused by interest in animal welfare and the impact of stress on economically important traits in farm animals the adrenal gland and its function within the stress response is of increasing interest. However, the molecular mechanisms and pathways involved in stress-related effects on economically important traits in farm animals are not fully understood. Gene expression is an important mechanism underlying complex traits, and genetic variants affecting the transcript abundance are thought to influence the manifestation of an expressed phenotype. We therefore investigated the genetic background of adrenocortical gene expression by applying an adaptive linear rank test to identify genome-wide expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) for adrenal cortex transcripts in cattle. Results: A total of 10,986 adrenal cortex transcripts and 37,204 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were analysed in 145 F2 cows of a Charolais × German Holstein cross. We identified 505 SNPs that were associated with the abundance of 129 transcripts, comprising 482 cis effects and 17 trans effects. These SNPs were located on all chromosomes but X, 16, 24 and 28. Associated genes are mainly involved in molecular and cellular functions comprising free radical scavenging, cellular compromise, cell morphology and lipid metabolism, including genes such as CYP27A1 and LHCGR that have been shown to affect economically important traits in cattle. Conclusions: In this study we showed that adrenocortical eQTL affect the expression of genes known to contribute to the phenotypic manifestation in cattle. Furthermore, some of the identified genes and related molecular pathways were previously shown to contribute to the phenotypic variation of behaviour, temperament and growth at the onset of puberty in the same population investigated here. We conclude that eQTL analysis appears to be a useful approach providing insight into the molecular and genetic background of complex traits in cattle and will help to understand molecular networks involved.

Original languageEnglish
Article number135
JournalBMC Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 06.10.2016


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