Associations among the genome, rumen metabolome, ruminal bacteria, and milk production in early-lactation Holsteins

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A multicenter observational study to evaluate genome-wide association was conducted in early-lactation Holstein cows (n = 293) from 36 herds in Canada, the USA, and Australia. Phenotypic observations included rumen metabolome, acidosis risk, ruminal bacterial taxa, and milk composition and yield measures. Diets ranged from pasture supplemented with concentrates to total mixed rations (nonfiber carbohydrates = 17 to 47, and neutral detergent fiber = 27 to 58% of dry matter). Rumen samples were collected <3 h after feeding and analyzed for pH, ammonia, d- and l-lactate, volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations, and abundance of bacterial phyla and families. Eigenvectors were produced using cluster and discriminant analyses from a combination of pH and ammonia, d-lactate, and VFA concentrations, and were used to estimate the probability of the risk of ruminal acidosis based on proximity to the centroid of 3 clusters, termed high (24.0% of cows), medium (24.2%), and low risk (51.8%) for acidosis. DNA of sufficient quality was successfully extracted from whole blood (218 cows) or hair (65 cows) collected simultaneously with the rumen samples and sequenced using the Geneseek Genomic Profiler Bovine 150K Illumina SNPchip. Genome-wide association used an additive model and linear regression with principal component analysis (PCA) population stratification and a Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons. Population structure was visualized using PCA plots. Single genomic markers were associated with milk protein percent and the center logged ratio abundance of the phyla Chloroflexi, SR1, and Spirochaetes, and tended to be associated with milk fat yield, rumen acetate, butyrate, and isovalerate concentrations and with the probability of being in the low-risk acidosis group. More than one genomic marker was associated or tended to be associated with rumen isobutyrate and caproate concentrations, and the center log ratio of the phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes and center log ratio of the families Prevotellaceae, BS11, S24-7, Acidaminococcaceae, Carnobacteriaceae, Lactobacillaceae, Leuconostocaceae, and Streptococcaceae. The provisional NTN4 gene, involved in several functions, had pleiotropy with 10 bacterial families, the phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and butyrate. The ATP2CA1 gene, involved in the ATPase secretory pathway for Ca2+ transport, overlapped for the families Prevotellaceae, S24-7, and Streptococcaceae, the phylum Bacteroidetes, and isobutyrate. No genomic markers were associated with milk yield, fat percentage, protein yield, total solids, energy-corrected milk, somatic cell count, rumen pH, ammonia, propionate, valerate, total VFA, and d-, l-, or total lactate concentrations, or probability of being in the high- or medium-risk acidosis groups. Genome-wide associations with the rumen metabolome, microbial taxa, and milk composition were present across a wide geographical and management range of herds, suggesting the existence of markers for the rumen environment but not for acidosis susceptibility. The variation in pathogenesis of ruminal acidosis in the small population of cattle in the high risk for acidosis group and the dynamic nature of the rumen as cows cycle through a bout of acidosis may have precluded the identification of markers for acidosis susceptibility. Despite a limited sample size, this study provides evidence of interactions between the mammalian genome, the rumen metabolome, ruminal bacteria, and milk protein percentage.



genome-wide association study, uminal acidosis, microbiome, quantitative trait loci


Golder, H. M., Thomson, J., Rehberger, J., Smith, A. H., Block, E., & Lean, I. J. (2023). Associations among the genome, rumen metabolome, ruminal bacteria, and milk production in early-lactation Holsteins. Journal of Dairy Science.
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