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Analyzing the sheep genome for parasite resistance

Date:
October 18, 2011
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
Genetic resistance to a parasitic nematode that infects sheep has been discovered by a team of agricultural scientists. The researchers are the first to detect quantitative trait loci (QTL), genetic locations on chromosomes, for resistance to gastrointestinal nematode parasites in a double-backcross population derived from African native sheep. The parasites, common in tropical regions, cause significant economic and production losses in Africa each year. Sheep infected with parasites suffer from diarrhea, anemia, weight loss and sometimes death.

ARS geneticist Tad Sonstegard, here preparing to load a genome analyzer, leads an international team that has found genetic resistance to a parasitic nematode that infects sheep and causes significant economic and production losses in Africa each year.
Credit: Photo by Stephen Ausmus

Genetic resistance to a parasitic nematode that infects sheep has been discovered by a team of scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The researchers are the first to detect quantitative trait loci (QTL), genetic locations on chromosomes, for resistance to gastrointestinal nematode parasites in a double-backcross population derived from African native sheep. The parasites, common in tropical regions, cause significant economic and production losses in Africa each year. Sheep infected with parasites suffer from diarrhea, anemia, weight loss and sometimes death.

Geneticist Tad Sonstegard at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md., and researchers at ILRI in Kenya hope to identify genes that increase tolerance to parasites and improve production of grazing animals. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports USDA's priority of promoting international food security.

In one study, researchers mapped the regions of the genome that control resistance to gastrointestinal nematode parasites in a sheep population bred by ILRI. Hybrid rams were produced by mating a Red Maasai, which is tolerant to gastrointestinal parasites, to a Dorper, a breed that is more susceptible to the parasite. Several of the hybrid ram offspring were then bred to either Red Maasai or Dorper ewes to complete the backcross.

Scientists genotyped 20 percent of the backcross progeny to map QTL that affect parasite-resistance traits. Blood packed-cell volume and fecal egg count-indicators of parasites-were collected for three months from more than 1,060 lambs that grazed on parasite-infected pastures. Scientists selected lambs for genotyping based on parasite indicators. They detected significant QTL for average fecal egg count and packed-cell volume on chromosomes 3, 6, 14, and 22.

Future studies will focus on genotyping the same animals using the OvineSNP50, according to Sonstegard. The OvineSNP50 is a powerful tool that can examine more than 50,000 locations in the genome.

Findings from this research were published online in Animal Genetics in May 2011.

Read more about this research in the October 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/oct11/food1011.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. The original article was written by Sandra Avant. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. V. B. Silva, T. S. Sonstegard, O. Hanotte, J. M. Mugambi, J. F. Garcia, S. Nagda, J. P. Gibson, F. A. Iraqi, A. E. McClintock, S. J. Kemp, P. J. Boettcher, M. Malek, C. P. Van Tassell, R. L. Baker. Identification of quantitative trait loci affecting resistance to gastrointestinal parasites in a double backcross population of Red Maasai and Dorper sheep. Animal Genetics, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2052.2011.02202.x

Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Analyzing the sheep genome for parasite resistance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018131347.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2011, October 18). Analyzing the sheep genome for parasite resistance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018131347.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Analyzing the sheep genome for parasite resistance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111018131347.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

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