Whole-genome sequencing reveals insights into the adaptation of French Charolais cattle to Cuban tropical conditions



Abstract Background In the early 20th century, Cuban farmers imported Charolais cattle (CHFR) directly from France. These animals are now known as Chacuba (CHCU) and have become adapted to the rough environmental tropical conditions in Cuba. These conditions include long periods of drought and food shortage with extreme temperatures that European taurine cattle have difficulty coping with. Results In this study, we used whole-genome sequence data from 12 CHCU individuals together with 60 whole-genome sequences from six additional taurine, indicus and crossed breeds to estimate the genetic diversity, structure and accurate ancestral origin of the CHCU animals. Although CHCU animals are assumed to form a closed population, the results of our admixture analysis indicate a limited introgression of Bos indicus. We used the extended haplotype homozygosity (EHH) approach to identify regions in the genome that may have had an important role in the adaptation of CHCU to tropical conditions. Putative selection events occurred in genomic regions with a high proportion of Bos indicus, but they were not sufficient to explain adaptation of CHCU to tropical conditions by Bos indicus introgression only. EHH suggested signals of potential adaptation in genomic windows that include genes of taurine origin involved in thermogenesis (ATP9A, GABBR1, PGR, PTPN1 and UCP1) and hair development (CCHCR1 and CDSN). Within these genes, we identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that may have a functional impact and contribute to some of the observed phenotypic differences between CHCU and CHFR animals. Conclusions Whole-genome data confirm that CHCU cattle are closely related to Charolais from France (CHFR) and Canada, but also reveal a limited introgression of Bos indicus genes in CHCU. We observed possible signals of recent adaptation to tropical conditions between CHCU and CHFR founder populations, which were largely independent of the Bos indicus introgression. Finally, we report candidate genes and variants that may have a functional impact and explain some of the phenotypic differences observed between CHCU and CHFR cattle.
Date made available5 Jan 2021

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