• Differentially Expressed Genes in Endometrium and Corpus Luteum of Holstein Cows Selected for High and Low Fertility Are Enriched for Sequence Variants Associated with Fertility

      Moore, Stephen; Pryce, J. E.; Hayes, Ben J.; Chamberlain, A. J.; Kemper, K. E.; Berry, Donagh; McCabe, Matthew; Cormican, Paul; Lonergan, P.; Fair, Trudee; et al. (Oxford University Press, 2015-11)
      Despite the importance of fertility in humans and livestock, there has been little success dissecting the genetic basis of fertility. Our hypothesis was that genes differentially expressed in the endometrium and corpus luteum on Day 13 of the estrous cycle between cows with either good or poor genetic merit for fertility would be enriched for genetic variants associated with fertility. We combined a unique genetic model of fertility (cattle that have been selected for high and low fertility and show substantial difference in fertility) with gene expression data from these cattle and genome-wide association study (GWAS) results in ∼20 000 cattle to identify quantitative trait loci (QTL) regions and sequence variants associated with genetic variation in fertility. Two hundred and forty-five QTL regions and 17 sequence variants associated primarily with prostaglandin F2alpha, steroidogenesis, mRNA processing, energy status, and immune-related processes were identified. Ninety-three of the QTL regions were validated by two independent GWAS, with signals for fertility detected primarily on chromosomes 18, 5, 7, 8, and 29. Plausible causative mutations were identified, including one missense variant significantly associated with fertility and predicted to affect the protein function of EIF4EBP3. The results of this study enhance our understanding of 1) the contribution of the endometrium and corpus luteum transcriptome to phenotypic fertility differences and 2) the genetic architecture of fertility in dairy cattle. Including these variants in predictions of genomic breeding values may improve the rate of genetic gain for this critical trait.