Genetic improvement for disease resilience is anticipated to be a practical method to improve efficiency and profitability of the pig industry, as resilient pigs maintain a relatively undepressed level of performance in the face of infection. However, multiple biological functions are known to be involved in disease resilience and this complexity means that the genetic architecture of disease resilience remains largely unknown. Here, we conducted genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of 465,910 autosomal SNPs for complete blood count (CBC) traits that are important in an animal’s disease response. The aim was to identify the genetic control of disease resilience.
Univariate and multivariate single-step GWAS were performed on fifteen CBC traits measured from the blood samples of 2743 crossbred (Landrace × Yorkshire) barrows drawn at 2-weeks before, and at 2 and 6-weeks after exposure to a polymicrobial infectious challenge. Overall, at a genome-wise false discovery rate of 0.05, five genomic regions located on Sus scrofa chromosome (SSC) 2, SSC4, SSC9, SSC10, and SSC12, were significantly associated with white blood cell traits in response to the polymicrobial challenge, and nine genomic regions on multiple chromosomes (SSC1, SSC4, SSC5, SSC6, SSC8, SSC9, SSC11, SSC12, SSC17) were significantly associated with red blood cell and platelet traits collected before and after exposure to the challenge. By functional enrichment analyses using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) and literature review of previous CBC studies, candidate genes located nearby significant single-nucleotide polymorphisms were found to be involved in immune response, hematopoiesis, red blood cell morphology, and platelet aggregation.
This study helps to improve our understanding of the genetic basis of CBC traits collected before and after exposure to a polymicrobial infectious challenge and provides a step forward to improve disease resilience.