A whole-genome scan for recurrent airway obstruction in Warmblood sport horses indicates two positional candidate regions

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Recurrent airway obstruction (RAO), or heaves, is a naturally occurring asthma-like disease that is related to sensitisation and exposure to mouldy hay and has a familial basis with a complex mode of inheritance. A genome-wide scanning approach using two half-sibling families was taken in order to locate the chromosome regions that contribute to the inherited component of this condition in these families. Initially, a panel of 250 microsatellite markers, which were chosen as a well-spaced, polymorphic selection covering the 31 equine autosomes, was used to genotype the two half-sibling families, which comprised in total 239 Warmblood horses. Subsequently, supplementary markers were added for a total of 315 genotyped markers. Each half-sibling family is focused around a severely RAO-affected stallion, and the phenotype of each individual was assessed for RAO and related signs, namely, breathing effort at rest, breathing effort at work, coughing, and nasal discharge, using an owner-based questionnaire. Analysis using a regression method for half-sibling family structures was performed using RAO and each of the composite clinical signs separately; two chromosome regions (on ECA13 and ECA15) showed a genome-wide significant association with RAO at P < 0.05. An additional 11 chromosome regions showed a more modest association. This is the first publication that describes the mapping of genetic loci involved in RAO. Several candidate genes are located in these regions, a number of which are interleukins. These are important signalling molecules that are intricately involved in the control of the immune response and are therefore good positional candidates.

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