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24, chemin de Borde Rouge –Auzeville – CS52627
31326 Castanet Tolosan CEDEX - France

Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

Menu Logo Principal AgroParisTech Université Paris-Saclay


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

Signatures of selection in Cuban Charolais cattle

Signature de sélection chez le bovin Charolais de Cuba
The charolais cattle imported to Cuba at the beginning of the XXth century are an interesting model for the study of heat adaptation. Studies on genetic diversity have shown 104 regions of the genome that differenciate Cuban charolais cattle, in which the genes implicated in disease resistance, physiological changes and heat tolerance figure along with that for muscle development. These studies, led by a multidisciplinary group of Cuban, French and Spanish scientists, provide information to help us understand the biological processes associated with adaptation of cattle to tropical conditions.

KEY WORDS: Bovine - Heat adaptation - Genetic diversity


The tropical climate of Cuba is unfavorable for breeding, especially for cattle. The study of the adaptation processes of bovine breeds in a tropical climate is essential for the improvement of farm management and production. Usually, with this type of climate, the breeds that are the best adapted are the zebus (Bos indicus) whereas European bovine breeds (Bos taurus) suffer from heat stress and are very sensitive to diseases (parasites, ...).

However, some European populations have successfully adapted to the Cuban climate. Amongst these, the "Charolais de Cuba". This breed is of French origin, resulting from French Charolais imported to Cuba at the beginning of the XXth century.

Charolais animal breeding spread all over the island after importations in 1919 and 1938, but then following the American embargo, the importations and genetic mixing that resulted, stopped. Since then, conservation genetic improvement programs were developed in Cuba, in particular in the Manuel Fajardo Genetics Center located in Jiguani (Granma province). The way these Charolais animals adapted was unknown. Until recently no study was performed to characterize their genetic diversity and their relation with other bovine breeds.

The comparison of genetic diversity of approximately forty Cuban Charolais animals with animals from about ten different bovine breeds including the French Charolais allowed, as expected, the identification of a close relationship between Cuban and French Charolais animals (with approximately 95% genetic similarity). However, it is precisely in the 5% difference, distributed over 104 different regions of the genome, where the genes associated with adaptation to tropical climate is located. For example, in these differentiated regions, we find genes implicated in disease resistance, physiological changes and heat tolerance but also muscle development.

This study received support from the French embassy of Cuba, the Cuban Minister of Agriculture and partnerships between scientists at the French National Agriculture Research Institute (INRA) of Jouy-en-Josas (GABI research unit), the Catalogna Research and Food Technology Institute (IRTA), the Agro-Genomic Research Center (CRAG) of Barcelona (Spain) and the Veterinary Medical Faculty of the Granma University (Cuba).

This study is not only the starting point to understand how the Charolais adapted to tropical conditions; il also offers new opportunities to characterize the genetic diversity of other economically important breeds for bovine production in tropical climates and to improve and optimize management strategies, conservation and improvement of genetic resources in hot climates. These results should also guide work to select animals from other breeds that are more resistant to heat, an increasingly important skill with global warming.

INRA Metaprogramme: SELGEN

See also

Références bibliographiques

Rodriguez-Valera Y., Renand G., Naves M., Fonseca-Jiménez Y., Moreno-Probance T.I., Ramos Onsins S., Rocha D., Ramayo-Caldas Y. (2018). Genetic diversity and selection signatures of the beef ‘Charolais de Cuba’ breed. Scientific Reports 8, 11005. DOI : 10.1038/s41598-018-29453-z.