Multi-generational genome wide association studies identify chromosomal regions associated with ascites phenotype

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Ascites is a multi-faceted disease commonly observed in fast growing broilers, which is initiated when the body is insufficiently oxygenated. A series of events follow, including an increase in pulmonary artery pressure, right ventricle hypertrophy, and accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity and pericardium. Advances in management practices along with improved selection programs have decreased ascites incidence in modern broilers. However, ascites syndrome remains an economically important disease throughout the world, causing estimated losses of $100 million per year. In this study, a 60 K Illumina SNP BeadChip was used to perform a series of genome wide association studies (GWAS) on the 16th and 18th generation of our relaxed (REL) line descended from a commercial elite broiler line beginning in 1995. Regions significantly associated with ascites incidence were identified on chromosome 2 around 70 megabase pairs (Mbp) and on chromosome Z around 60 Mbp. Five candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) were evaluated as indicators for these 2 regions in order to identify association with ascites and right ventricle to total ventricle weight (RVTV) ratios. Chromosome 2 SNP showed an association with RVTV ratios in males phenotyped as ascites resistant and ascites susceptible (P = 0.02 and P = 0.03, respectively). The chromosome Z region also indicates an association with resistant female RVTV values (P = 0.02). Regions of significance identified on chromosomes 2 and Z described in this study will be used as proposed candidate regions for further investigation into the genetics of ascites. This information will lead to a better understanding of the underlying genetics and gene networks contributing to ascites, and thus advances in ascites reduction through commercial breeding schemes.

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