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Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal AgroParisTech Université Paris-Saclay


GABI : Génétique Animale et Biologie IntégrativeUnité Mixte de Recherche INRA - AgroParisTech

Genetic determinism of body size in cattle

P.eldar [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
As part of the "1000 bovine genome" consortium, scientists from INRA and Allice and their partners abroad have explored the genetic determinism of animal stature, showing its complexity. At least 163 genomic regions are implicated in the genetic control of cattle size, but they only explain 14% of the variability of this trait in the populations studied. This complex genetic determinism is similar to what is observed in man for which the genes identified as being implicated only explain 10 to 20% of the observed variability.

KEY-WORDS: Bovine ; stature ; genome sequence

Андрюша Романов, Displayed skeleton of a domestic cow, CC BY 4.0 Скелет домашней коровы, 2014
Cattle have been accompanying man for 10 000 years. From the wild Auroch that Jules Cesar described as "having a size a little smaller than that of elephants", to the Cow Dexter, measuring just barely 1 m to the withers, the stature of cattle has evolved under both genetic and environmental effects. 

Scientists from INRA, Allice and foreign scientists all members of the 1000 cattle Consortium have explored the genetic determinism for size in cattle.

Scientists from INRA, Allice and foreign scientists all members of the 1000 cattle Consortium have explored the genetic determinism for size in cattle.

Scientists identified 163 regions of the bovine genome implicated in the variability of the stature of the animals. They identified most of the genes implicated in each region. Within these regions, the majority of the mutations responsible for stature variability are located in the non-coding regions of the genes and they play a role in gene expression regulation. The metabolic pathway for the growth hormone IGF2 is particularly concerned, even though this gene does not have mutations that affect size. A significant fraction of the genes implicated in the stature variability of cattle also play a similar role in other mammals including man and horses. Amongst these genes, several such as PLAG1 (Pleomorphic adenoma gene 1) or LCOR (ligand corepressor gene) along with the genomic regions that surround them show no variability in some breeds, suggesting there has been an important selection pressure on them and therefore on animal size.

These genomic regions help explain the reduced size of miniature animals for the Angus, Hereford and Belted Galloway breeds. However, they only explain 14% of the variability observed for the size of seven bovine populations for the Simmental, Limousine, Hereford, Charolaise, Angus and Brown Swiss breeds.

This wide-ranged study strengthened by the scientific resources shared by the partners of the international consortium "1000 bovine genomes", revealed for the first time how complex the genetic determinism is for bovine stature. This complexity is similar to that observed in man - the genes identified only explain 10-20% of the variability, on the contrary to what is found in dogs for which dozens of genes explain most of the variability, in particular between breeds.

Analogical analyses are currently underway for other traits.


Scientific correspondant:

Associated Division: Animal Genetics

Associated research center: Jouy-en-josas

Inra Metaprogram: SelGen



INRA Priority from the guidance document

#OpenScience-3 : Predictive approaches in biology

See also

Bibliographic references

Bouwman A.C., Daetwyler H.D., Chamberlain A.J., Hurtado Ponce C., Sargolzaei M., Schenkel F.S., Sahana G., Govignon-Gion A., Boitard S., Dolezal M., Pausch H., Brøndum R.F., Bowman P.J., Thomsen B., Guldbrandtsen B., Lund M.S., Servin B., Garrick D.J., Reecy J., Vilkki J., Bagnato A., Wang M., Hoff J.L., Schnabel R.D., Taylor J.F., Vinkhuyzen A.A.E., Panitz F., Bendixen C., Holm L.E., Gredler B., Hozé C., Boussaha M., Sanchez M.P., Rocha D., Capitan A., Tribout T., Barbat A., Croiseau P., Drögemüller C., Jagannathan V., Vander Jagt C., Crowley J.J., Intergenomics Consortium, Bieber A., Purfield D.C., Berry D.P., Emmerling R., Götz K.U., Van Tassell C.P, Fries R., Stothard P., Veerkamp R.F., Boichard D., Goddard M.E., Hayes B.J.  Meta-analysis of genome wide association studies for the stature of cattle reveals common genes that regulate size in mammals. Nature Genetics, 50, 362-367. DOI:10.1038/s41588-018-0056-5.