Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Simultaneous testing of rule- and model-based approaches for runs of homozygosity detection opens up a window into genomic footprints of selection in pigs


Past selection events left footprints in the genome of domestic animals, which can be traced back by stretches of homozygous genotypes, designated as runs of homozygosity (ROHs). The analysis of common ROH regions within groups or populations displaying potential signatures of selection requires high-quality SNP data as well as carefully adjusted ROH-defining parameters. In this study, we used a simultaneous testing of rule- and model-based approaches to perform strategic ROH calling in genomic data from different pig populations to detect genomic regions under selection for specific phenotypes.


Our ROH analysis using a rule-based approach offered by PLINK, as well as a model-based approach run by RZooRoH demonstrated a high efficiency of both methods. It underlined the importance of providing a high-quality SNP set as input as well as adjusting parameters based on dataset and population for ROH calling. Particularly, ROHs ≤ 20 kb were called in a high frequency by both tools, but to some extent covered different gene sets in subsequent analysis of ROH regions common for investigated pig groups. Phenotype associated ROH analysis resulted in regions under potential selection characterizing heritage pig breeds, known to harbour a long-established breeding history. In particular, the selection focus on fitness-related traits was underlined by various ROHs harbouring disease resistance or tolerance-associated genes. Moreover, we identified potential selection signatures associated with ear morphology, which confirmed known candidate genes as well as uncovered a missense mutation in the ABCA6 gene potentially supporting ear cartilage formation.


The results of this study highlight the strengths and unique features of rule- and model-based approaches as well as demonstrate their potential for ROH analysis in animal populations. We provide a workflow for ROH detection, evaluating the major steps from filtering for high-quality SNP sets to intersecting ROH regions. Formula-based estimations defining ROHs for rule-based method show its limits, particularly for efficient detection of smaller ROHs. Moreover, we emphasize the role of ROH detection for the identification of potential footprints of selection in pigs, displaying their breed-specific characteristics or favourable phenotypes.


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