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DAFM Award

DAFM National Call 2011 11 S 104 Teagasc (TCD, UCD, UL, NCBC) 1,267,114

Project Title:

Molecular Biomarkers of Fertility - New Tools for the Cattle Industry.

Project Coordinator:

Dr. Kieran Meade

Project Abstract

Compromised fertility is the single biggest threat to the Irish agricultural sector and there is a major need for an accurate predictive test, especially given the requirement for compact calving in our grass-based system and the expected increase in the national herd post-quota (2015). In conjunction with the National Cattle Breeding Centre, this novel proposal will target the downward trend in fertility and develop tangible tools for the Industry. We have recently discovered a cluster of 19 ß-defensin genes that are exclusively expressed in the epididymis of the bull and fallopian tube of the cow. Research has shown that these genes regulate fertility in other species, including man, however nothing is known about these genes in cattle. Our novel findings hold significant promise (1) for improved understanding of the genetics underlying fertility, (2) the development of a genetic test for fertility and (3) as breeding targets for Genomic Selection. With leading researchers in reproduction, genetics and immunology, across 4 research centres (Teagasc, TCD, UCD and UL), this project will structurally and functionally characterise the relationship between defensin haplotype in AI bulls, sperm function and cow fertility using in vitro analyses, a field trial and regression of genotype on field fertility data. One of our novel polymorphisms encodes a truncated defensin peptide, carried by 80% of Holstein-Friesian AI bulls; and our preliminary data shows that sperm from homozygous bulls exhibit significantly reduced motility in vitro. These exciting findings point toward central roles for these genes in determining fertility in cattle.

Final Report:

Not available yet.