The genetic architecture of socially-affected traits: a GWAS for direct and indirect genetic effects on survival time in laying hens showing cannibalism

Tessa Brinker, Piter Bijma, Addie Vereijken, Esther D. Ellen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Cannibalism is an important welfare problem in the layer industry. Cannibalism is a social behavior where individual survival is affected by direct genetic effects (DGE) and indirect genetic effects (IGE). Previous studies analysed repeated binomial survival, instead of survival time, which improved accuracies of breeding value predictions. Our study aimed at identifying SNPs associated with DGE and IGE for survival time, and comparing results from models that analyse survival time and repeated binomial survival. Methods: Survival data of three layer crosses (W1 * WA, W1 * WB, and W1 * WC) were used. Each individual had one survival time record and 13 monthly survival (0/1) records. Approximately 30,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were included in the genome-wide association study (GWAS), using a linear mixed model for survival time, a linear mixed model and a generalized linear mixed model for repeated binomial survival (0/1). Backwards elimination was used to determine phenotypic and genetic variance explained by SNPs. Results: The same quantitative trait loci were identified with all models. A SNP associated with DGE was found in cross W1 * WA, with an allele substitution effect of 22 days. This SNP explained 3% of the phenotypic variance, and 36% of the total genetic variance. Four SNPs associated with DGE were found in cross W1 * WB, with effects ranging from 16 to 35 days. These SNPs explained 1 to 6% of the phenotypic variance and 9 to 44% of the total genetic variance. Our results suggest a link of DGE and IGE for survival time in layers with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system, since a SNP located near a gene for a GABA receptor was associated with DGE and with IGE (not significant). Conclusions: This is one of the first large studies investigating the genetic architecture of a socially-affected trait. The power to detect SNP associations was relatively low and thus we expect that many effects on DGE and IGE remained undetected. Yet, GWAS results revealed SNPs with large DGE and a link of DGE and IGE for survival time in layers with the GABAergic system, which supports existing evidence for the involvement of GABA in the development of abnormal behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
JournalGenetics Selection Evolution
Volume50
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2018

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