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Genome-wide scan for candidate lethal variants

Last changed: 01 October 2020

Domestic animal populations are often characterised by high rates of inbreeding and low effective population sizes due to selective breeding practices. These practices can result in otherwise rare recessive deleterious alleles drifting to high frequencies, resulting in reduced fertility rates. This study aimed to identify potential recessive lethal haplotypes in the Thoroughbred horse breed, a closed population that has been selectively bred for racing performance.

In this study, we identified a haplotype in the LY49B gene that shows strong evidence of being homozygous lethal, despite having high frequencies of heterozygotes in Thoroughbreds and other domestic horse breeds. Variant analysis of whole-genome sequence data identified two SNPs in the 3′UTR of the LY49B gene that may result in loss of function. Analysis of transcriptomic data from equine embryonic tissue revealed that LY49B is expressed in the trophoblast during placentation stage of development.

These findings suggest that LY49B may have an essential, but as yet unknown function in the implantation stage of equine development. Further investigation of this region may allow for the development of a genetic test to improve fertility rates in horse populations. Identification of other lethal variants could assist in improving natural levels of fertility in horse populations.

Link to the publication


Todd, E.T., Thomson, P.C., Hamilton, N.A. et al. A genome-wide scan for candidate lethal variants in Thoroughbred horses. Sci Rep 10, 13153 (2020).