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Evaluation of the phenotypic and genomic background of variability based on litter size of Large White pigs
Genetics Selection Evolution  (IF4.297),  Pub Date : 2022-01-03, DOI: 10.1186/s12711-021-00692-5
Sell-Kubiak, Ewa, Knol, Egbert F., Lopes, Marcos

The genetic background of trait variability has captured the interest of ecologists and animal breeders because the genes that control it could be involved in buffering various environmental effects. Phenotypic variability of a given trait can be assessed by studying the heterogeneity of the residual variance, and the quantitative trait loci (QTL) that are involved in the control of this variability are described as variance QTL (vQTL). This study focuses on litter size (total number born, TNB) and its variability in a Large White pig population. The variability of TNB was evaluated either using a simple method, i.e. analysis of the log-transformed variance of residuals (LnVar), or the more complex double hierarchical generalized linear model (DHGLM). We also performed a single-SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) genome-wide association study (GWAS). To our knowledge, this is only the second study that reports vQTL for litter size in pigs and the first one that shows GWAS results when using two methods to evaluate variability of TNB: LnVar and DHGLM. Based on LnVar, three candidate vQTL regions were detected, on Sus scrofa chromosomes (SSC) 1, 7, and 18, which comprised 18 SNPs. Based on the DHGLM, three candidate vQTL regions were detected, i.e. two on SSC7 and one on SSC11, which comprised 32 SNPs. Only one candidate vQTL region overlapped between the two methods, on SSC7, which also contained the most significant SNP. Within this vQTL region, two candidate genes were identified, ADGRF1, which is involved in neurodevelopment of the brain, and ADGRF5, which is involved in the function of the respiratory system and in vascularization. The correlation between estimated breeding values based on the two methods was 0.86. Three-fold cross-validation indicated that DHGLM yielded EBV that were much more accurate and had better prediction of missing observations than LnVar. The results indicated that the LnVar and DHGLM methods resulted in genetically different traits. Based on their validation, we recommend the use of DHGLM over the simpler method of log-transformed variance of residuals. These conclusions can be useful for future studies on the evaluation of the variability of any trait in any species.