Discovery and validation of candidate SNP markers associated to heat stress response in pregnant ewes managed inside a climate-controlled chamber

Guillermo Luna-Nevarez, Amy C. Kelly, Leticia E. Camacho, Sean W. Limesand, Javier R. Reyna-Granados, Pablo Luna-Nevarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Sheep production in desert environments during summer is challenging due to heat stress which reduces feed intake, growth, and fertility. Despite warm conditions, some ewes are able to maintain a normal performance suggesting the existence of genetic bases underlying heat tolerance. Our objective was to discover and validate genetic markers associated with thermo-tolerance in pregnant ewes exposed to warm environmental conditions. Using a well-defined model laboratory of heat stress in sheep, pregnant Columbia-Rambouillet crossbred ewes (n = 100) were examined. Following acclimation to the laboratory at thermo-neutral conditions, heat stress was induced in ewes by increasing the temperature-humidity index in a control environmental chamber during mid-gestation. Feed intake, water consumption, and rectal temperature were recorded daily and used to establish the heat stress tolerance index (HSTI) for each ewe. Rectal temperature was a predictor (P < 0.05) of feed intake, and the regression coefficient was used to classify the HSTI. In a subset of 24 ewes, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed using the Illumina OvineSNP50 BeadChip. Single-marker analysis detected 3 intragenic SNPs associated with HSTI (P value = 10−5). Bayesian multi-marker approach discovered 26 chromosomal regions across the genome which accounted for 9.8% of the variation associated with HSTI. In an independent sheep population (n = 42), the three discovered SNPs were validated as molecular markers associated with thermo-tolerance phenotypic traits. These SNPs were located within the genes F13A1, PAM, and PRELID2. In conclusion, three SNPs appear to be novel molecular markers associated with heat stress tolerance in pregnant ewes providing new knowledge about genetic foundations of thermo-tolerance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3457-3466
Number of pages10
JournalTropical Animal Health and Production
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Ewes
  • Heat stress
  • SNP markers
  • Thermo-tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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