Characterisation of the poll allele in Brahman cattle using long read Oxford Nanopore sequencing

Brahman cattle (Bos indicus) are well adapted to thrive in tropical environments. Since their introduction to Australia in 1933, Brahman’s ability to grow and reproduce on marginal lands has proven their value in the tropical beef industry. The poll phenotype, which describes the absence of horns, has become desirable in the cattle industry for animal welfare and handler safety concerns. The poll locus has been mapped to chromosome one. Four alleles, each a copy number variant, have been reported across this locus in B. indicus and Bos taurus. However, the causative mutation in Brahman cattle has not been fully characterized.

Oxford Nanopore Technology’s MinION sequencer was used to sequence four homozygous poll (PcPc), four homozygous horned (pp) and three heterozygous (Pcp) Brahmans to characterize the poll allele in Brahman cattle.

A total of 98 Gb was sequenced and an average coverage of 3.33X was achieved. Read N50 scores ranged from 9.9 kb to 19 kb. Examination of the mapped reads across the poll locus revealed insertions approximately 200 bp in length in the poll animals that were absent in the horned animals. These results are consistent with the Celtic poll allele, a 212 bp duplication which replaces 10 bp. This provides direct evidence that the Celtic poll allele is segregating in the Australian Brahman population.

Authors: Harrison J Lamb, Elizabeth M Ross, Loan T Nguyen, Russell E Lyons, Stephen S Moore, Ben J Hayes