Genetic locus linked to tolerance to East Coast fever

Researchers from the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health (CTLGH), Roslin Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the University of Glasgow sought to understand whether regions of the cattle genome might predict the likelihood that an animal can survive East Coast fever, a disease caused by the parasite Theileria parva, transmitted by ticks. The study is published in PLOS Genetics.

Genetic analysis of Boran (Bos indicus) cattle – an East African breed in which some animals can tolerate the disease – enabled the team to identify a 6 Mb genomic region on bovine chromosome 15 that may have a key role in preventing deadly infection. The results suggest a gene in the region may help to prevent the uncontrolled production of infected cells and reduce the risk of an animal becoming seriously ill or dying.

The team validated their results using data previously recorded from an independent population of East African cattle.

Their findings indicate that the DNA region highlighted by their study may have evolved in response to another Theileria parasite, Theileria annulata, and it may potentially offer protection against both.

The outcome suggests that breeding cattle which carry the key genetic region, or developing cattle whose DNA is edited to carry the necessary genetic signature, may increase the tolerance to East Coast fever in imported cattle across Africa.

The study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and supported by CGIAR and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation.

Article: Wragg, D., Cook, E. A. J., Latré de Laté, P., Sitt, T., Hemmink, J. D., Chepkwony, M. C., Njeru, R., Poole, E. J., Powell, J., Paxton, E. A., Callaby, R., Talenti, A., Miyunga, A. A., Ndambuki, G., Mwaura, S., Auty, H., Matika, O., Hassan, M., Marshall, K., Connelley, T., Morrison L. J., Bronsvoort, B. M. de C., Morrison, W. I., Toye, P. G., Prendergast, J. G. D. (2022). A locus conferring tolerance to Theileria infection in African cattle. PLoS Genetics, 18(4), e1010099, doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1010099

[SOURCE: The Roslin Instititue]