March 11, 2021

Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics Symposium: Genome to Phenome--Application to Animal Production

Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics Symposium: Genome to Phenome--Application to Animal Production
Summary by: Dr. Emily Taylor, Purdue University, West Lafayette Indiana

Dr. Kenny began discussing why it is crucial to advance puberty in dairy cattle by genomic selection. It is essential to identify genes in the prepubertal animal that will identify early puberty. As an overview, he reviewed the literature that evaluated early life nutrition's effect on the sexual development of both heifer and bull calves. From the literature, we know that improving nutrition, usually during the preweaning time frame, will advance the onset of puberty.

Dr. Kenny reviewed a study that evaluated the effect of enhanced nutrition during the early life period in heifer and bull calves reproductive tissues through transcriptomic and proteomic analysis. Overall, his results lead to increased gonadotropin secretion, advanced testicular development, reproductive tract development in heifers, and the early onset of puberty. It was suggested that mediation is through a complex interplay between metabolic signals and specialized neuropeptides within the brain's neuroendocrine centers.

Can We Developmentally Program the Epigenomic to Improve Traits Relevant to Production in Cattle, Dr. Robert Cushman – USDA, ARS, USMARC

Dr. Cushman began discussing the physiology control of gene activity and how the epigenome controls its function. Determining which genes are turned on or off is regulated by cell type, disease, physiological stimulus, and nutritional status. Identifying practices that a producer can replicate that effectively control epigenetic function within an animal is crucial to translating developmental programming to a production setting.
Data from his lab was presented, and the trait at which they targeted was ovarian reserve. Reducing nutrient intake during the pre-pubertal development in heifers increased the number of primordial follicles in the ovaries. However, environmental stressors may induce changes in the ovarian reserve that will negate the beneficial effects. While the data suggests that it is possible to developmentally program the epigenome in cattle in ways that will improve production traits, Dr. Cushman stressed that more research is needed to improve the consistency of response and determine the best practices that fit into production systems.

Multi-omics Approaches to Improve Animal Production, Wellison Jarles Da Silva Diniz – North Dakota State University

As a continuation to the previous presentation by Dr. Cushing, Dr. Diniz began his discussion on how to increase animal performance, improve animal health and well-being, and reduce the environmental footprint by using multi-omics. The number of quantitative trait loci identified has risen recently; however, it is still very limited. Dr. Diniz used genomic selection in the dairy industry as an example of how important it can be in a production setting.
Dr. Diniz explained that past research has focused on single-data-type designs without considering the intricate relationship among the regulatory layers, resulting in the genetic basis of complex traits being unclear. Integrative network modeling is now being used to separate the biological mechanisms driving the genotype-phenotype association. Although, a better functionally annotate genome is needed to fully understand the connection between the genome and phenome. Moreover, understanding the mechanisms controlling these complex traits and using omics data in statistical models will help predict these critical economic traits. Dr. Diniz ended his presentation by discussing the challenge of translating these findings into animal breeding.

An unedited recording of this symposium can be found on meeting website.