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Genome-Wide Variation, Candidate Regions and Genes Associated With Fat Deposition and Tail Morphology in Ethiopian Indigenous Sheep

Ahbara, Abulgasim; Bahbahani, Hussain; Almathen, Faisal; Al Abri, Mohammed; Agoub, Mukhtar Omar; Abeba, Ayelle; Kebede, Adebabay; Musa, Hassan Hussein; Mastrangelo, Salvatore; Pilla, Fabio; Ciani, Elena; Hanotte, Olivier; Mwacharo, Joram M.


Abulgasim Ahbara

Hussain Bahbahani

Faisal Almathen

Mohammed Al Abri

Mukhtar Omar Agoub

Ayelle Abeba

Adebabay Kebede

Hassan Hussein Musa

Salvatore Mastrangelo

Fabio Pilla

Elena Ciani

Director of Frozen Ark Project & Professor of Genetics & Conservation

Joram M. Mwacharo


Variations in body weight and in the distribution of body fat are associated with feed availability, thermoregulation, and energy reserve. Ethiopia is characterized by distinct agro-ecological and human ethnic farmer diversity of ancient origin, which have impacted on the variation of its indigenous livestock. Here, we investigate autosomal genome-wide profiles of 11 Ethiopian indigenous sheep populations using the Illumina Ovine 50 K SNP BeadChip assay. Sheep from the Caribbean, Europe, Middle East, China, and western, northern and southern Africa were included to address globally, the genetic variation and history of Ethiopian populations. Population relationship and structure analysis separated Ethiopian indigenous fat-tail sheep from their North African and Middle Eastern counterparts. It indicates two main genetic backgrounds and supports two distinct genetic histories for African fat-tail sheep. Within Ethiopian sheep, our results show that the short fat-tail sheep do not represent a monophyletic group. Four genetic backgrounds are present in Ethiopian indigenous sheep but at different proportions among the fat-rump and the long fat-tail sheep from western and southern Ethiopia. The Ethiopian fat-rump sheep share a genetic background with Sudanese thin-tail sheep. Genome-wide selection signature analysis identified eight putative candidate regions spanning genes influencing growth traits and fat deposition (NPR2, HINT2, SPAG8, INSR), development of limbs and skeleton, and tail formation (ALX4, HOXB13, BMP4), embryonic development of tendons, bones and cartilages (EYA2, SULF2), regulation of body temperature (TRPM8), body weight and height variation (DIS3L2), control of lipogenesis and intracellular transport of long-chain fatty acids (FABP3), the occurrence and morphology of horns (RXFP2), and response to heat stress (DNAJC18). Our findings suggest that Ethiopian fat-tail sheep represent a uniquely admixed but distinct genepool that presents an important resource for understanding the genetic control of skeletal growth, fat metabolism and associated physiological processes.


Ahbara, A., Bahbahani, H., Almathen, F., Al Abri, M., Agoub, M. O., Abeba, A., …Mwacharo, J. M. (2019). Genome-Wide Variation, Candidate Regions and Genes Associated With Fat Deposition and Tail Morphology in Ethiopian Indigenous Sheep. Frontiers in Genetics, 9, Article 699.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 13, 2018
Online Publication Date Jan 9, 2019
Publication Date 2019-01
Deposit Date Feb 1, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 1, 2019
Journal Frontiers in Genetics
Electronic ISSN 1664-8021
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Article Number 699
Keywords Genetics(clinical); Molecular Medicine; Genetics
Public URL
Publisher URL


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