A New Approach for Accurate Detection of Chromosome Rearrangements That Affect Fertility in Cattle
School of Biosciences, University of Kent, Giles Lane, Canterbury CT2 7NJ, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 November 2019
Revised: 8 January 2020
Accepted: 8 January 2020
Published: 10 January 2020
Globally, cattle production has more than doubled since the 1960s, with widespread use of artificial insemination (AI) and an emphasis on a small pool of high-genetic-merit animals. Selecting AI bulls with optimal fertility is therefore vital, as impaired fertility reduces genetic gains and reduces production, resulting in heavy financial and environmental losses. Chromosome translocations, where large parts of the genome are inappropriately attached in abnormal patterns, are a common cause of reduced fertility; however, reciprocal translocations are significantly underreported due to the difficulties inherent in analysing cattle chromosomes. Based on our previous work, we have developed an approach for the unambiguous detection of abnormalities that affect fertility. We applied this method on the chromosomes of 39 bulls, detecting multiple abnormalities that affect fertility, including those that would be undetectable using traditional screening techniques. With UK dairy calving rates of only 50–60%, it is vital to reduce further fertility loss in order to maximise productivity. The approach developed here identifies abnormalities that DNA sequencing will not, and has the potential to lead to long-term gains, delivering meat and milk products in a more cost-effective and environmentally-responsible manner to a growing population.