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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Performance of Swedish Warmblood fragile foal syndrome carriers and breeding prospects

Ablondi, Michela; Johnsson, Martin; Eriksson, Susanne; Sabbioni, Alberto; Viklund, Asa Gelinder; Mikko, Sofia;

Abstract

Background Warmblood fragile foal syndrome (WFFS) is a monogenetic defect caused by a recessive lethal missense point mutation in the procollagen-lysine, 2-oxoglutarate 5-dioxygenase 1 gene (PLOD1, c.2032G>A). The majority of homozygous WFFS horses are aborted during gestation. Clinical signs of affected horses include fragile skin, skin and mucosa lacerations, hyperextension of the articulations, and hematomas. In spite of its harmful effect, a relatively high frequency of WFFS carriers has been found in Warmblood horses, suggesting a heterozygote advantage. Thus, in this study our aims were to: (1) estimate the frequency of WFFS carriers in the Swedish Warmblood breed (SWB), (2) estimate the effect of WFFS carrier genotype on performance traits in two SWB subpopulations bred for different disciplines, and (3) simulate the potential effects of balancing selection and different selection strategies on the frequency of carriers. Methods In total, 2288 SWB sport horses born between 1971 and 2020 were tested for the WFFS mutation and had estimated breeding values (EBV) for ten traditional evaluating and 50 linear descriptive traits. Results The frequency of WFFS carriers calculated from a pool of 511 randomly selected SWB horses born in 2017 was equal to 7.4% and ranged from 0.0 to 12.0% among the whole set of tested SWB horses, starting from 1971 till 2020. The effect of the WFFS carrier genotype was significant for several EBV mainly related to movements and dressage traits and especially for horses not bred for the show jumping discipline. Using simulation, we showed that balancing selection can maintain a recessive lethal allele in populations such as the SWB breed over generations and that the frequency is expected to slowly decrease in absence of balancing selection. Finally, we showed that selection against carrier sires can result in a more rapid decrease of the frequency of the mutant allele over time. Conclusion Further research is needed to confirm the apparent association between equine performance and the WFFS carrier genotype. Identification of such associations or new causative mutations for horse performance traits can serve as new tools in horse breeding to select for healthy, sustainable, and better performing horses.

Published in

Genetics Selection Evolution

2022, volume: 54, number: 1, article number: 4

Authors' information

University of Parma
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Sabbioni, Alberto
University of Parma
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12711-021-00693-4

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/115917