Background: Consecutive homozygous fragments of the genome inherited from a common ancestor to offspring are known as runs of homozygosity (ROH). ROH can be used to calculate genomic inbreeding and to identifying genomic regions that are potentially under historical selection pressure. The dataset of our study consisted of 254 Azeri (AZ) and 115 Khuzestani (KHZ) river buffalo genotyped for ~65000 SNPs for the following two purposes: 1) to estimate and compare inbreeding calculated using ROH (FROH), excess of homozygosity (FHOM), correlation between uniting gametes (FUNI), and diagonal elements of the genomic relationship matrix (FGRM); 2) to identify frequently occurring ROH (i.e. ROH islands) for our selection signature and gene enrichment studies.
Results: In this study, 9102 ROH were identified, with an average number of 21.2±13.1 and 33.2±15.9 segments per animal in AZ and KHZ breeds, respectively. On average in AZ, 4.35% (108.8±120.3 Mb), and in KHZ, 5.96% (149.1±107.7 Mb) of the genome was autozygous. The estimated inbreeding values based on FHOM, FUNI and FGRM were higher in AZ than they were in KHZ, which was in contrast to the FROH estimates. We identified 11 ROH islands (four in AZ and seven in KHZ). In the KHZ breed, the genes located in ROH islands were enriched for multiple Gene Ontology (GO) terms (P<0.05). The genes located in ROH islands were associated with diverse biological functions and traits such as body size and muscle development (BMP2), immune response (CYP27B1), milk production and components (MARS, ADRA1A, and KCTD16), coat colour and pigmentation (PMEL and MYO1A), reproductive traits (INHBC, INHBE, STAT6 and PCNA), and bone development (SUOX).
Conclusion: The calculated FROH was in line with expected higher inbreeding in KHZ than in AZ because of the smaller effective population size of KHZ. Thus, we find that FROH can be used as a robust estimate of genomic inbreeding. Further, the majority of ROH peaks were overlapped with or in close proximity to the previously reported genomic regions with signatures of selection. This tells us that it is likely that the genes in the ROH islands have been subject to artificial and/or natural selection.