Indian Journal of Animal Research

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Indian Journal of Animal Research, volume 56 issue 12 (december 2022) : 1448-1453

​Elucidation of Genetic Divergence among Cattle Breeds of Tamil Nadu in Mitochondrial Genome

S. Vani1,*, D. Balasubramanyam1, S.M.K. Karthickeyan1, M. Parthiban1, P.S.L. Sesh1
1Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Chennai-600 007, Tamil Nadu, India.
Cite article:- Vani S., Balasubramanyam D., Karthickeyan S.M.K., Parthiban M., Sesh P.S.L. (2022). ​Elucidation of Genetic Divergence among Cattle Breeds of Tamil Nadu in Mitochondrial Genome . Indian Journal of Animal Research. 56(12): 1448-1453. doi: 10.18805/IJAR.B-4974.
Background: The present study was carried out for genetic characterization and assessment of evolutionary status of native cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu, India.

Methods: Complete mitochondrial genome sequence of 15 pooled samples belonging to five cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu was carried out for the first time using Illumina platform. These mitogenomes were utilized in the present investigation to study the mitochondrial diversity. using suitable statistical tools. 

Result: The sequences encompassed 16,338 to 16,340 nucleotides with 273 variants. Low degree of genetic divergence and polymorphism was observed in the population. Higher rate of migrants (11.77) between populations caused increase in gene flow. FST value of -0.04435 revealed low level of genetic differentiation between cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu. A significant negative Tajima’s D (P<0.05) for all the Bos indicus cattle indicates operation of purifying selection and population expansion among the genetic groups under study. Maximum likelihood reconstruction using complete mitochondrial sequences of the present study combined with previously reported sequences of Nellore cattle and eight Bos taurus cattle breeds illustrated close genetic relationship among the Bos indicus cattle under study with a clear demarcation from the Bos taurus cattle indicating higher genetic divergence between the two lineages. This finding was also supported by multi-dimensional scaling. Analysis of molecular variance revealed no differentiation between cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu.
Archaeological and genetic evidences suggest that modern cattle might have arose from several domestication events of aurochs (Bos primigenius) and resulted  in the formation of Bos indicus and Bos taurus lineages around 8,000-10,000 years ago (Loftus et al., 1994). India has large indigenous cattle population with 50 distinct breeds. Extensive and different range of agro-ecological zones in India has assisted in the development of each breed (Sharma et al., 2015) with distinct characteristics. Indian cattle breeds are broadly categorized into dairy, draft and dual purpose breeds based on their utility. However, majority of them are draft breeds, under severe neglect resulting in continuous decline of their germplasm. The introduction of highly productive exotic breeds and demographic pressure are also contributing to the loss of precious traits and reduction in population size of indigenous breeds. Cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu (Alambadi, Bargur, Kangayam, Pulikulam and Umblachery) are characterized as tropical/subtropical breeds possessing heat tolerance and parasite resistance and can survive in a harsh environment and on low-quality roughages.
               
Thus, assessing the genetic characteristics of such indigenous breeds would be helpful in better understanding of genetic diversity as well as formulating action plans for conservation and management. The genetic diversity of cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu has previously been investigated using a range of techniques viz. karyotypic analysis (Parameswari et al., 2019), microsatellite DNA markers (Barani et al., 2015) and Y-chromosome specific microsatellite polymorphisms (Jeevan, 2022). Maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been extensively used to determine the genetic variation and phylogenetic relationships of domestic cattle, but related studies have been mostly restricted to the short hypervariable region which makes it impossible to clearly distinguish between some important ancient branches within the phylogenetic tree. To date, most mtDNA studies have focused on the control region (D-loop) (Jakaria et al., 2019). Therefore, the present study aims in including the additional information on the matrilineal genetic diversity and phylogenetic status of the cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence data obtained from the whole genome sequencing. Using the entire mitochondrial genome sequence to study the genetic structure of animals would provide us refined phylogenies of maternal lineages.
Sample collection and processing
       
The present study was carried out at Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai during 2021-2022. A total of 302 blood samples were collected from four registered cattle breeds viz. Bargur, Kangayam, Pulikulam, umblachery and one unregistered cattle (Alambadi) population maintained at their respective cattle research stations in different agro-climatic regions of Tamil Nadu, India. Genomic DNA was extracted using phenol-chloroform method (Sambrook et al., 1989) with slight modifications by adding DNAzol solution instead of proteinase-k. After assessing the quality and quantity of genomic DNA, a total of 79 animals from five breeds were selected based on the sex of the animal and available milk records. They were categorized and pooled into three groups from each breed as bulls, medium yielding dams (>2 kg milk yield per day) and low yielding dams (<1 kg milk yield per day). Thus a total of 15 pooled samples (Alambadi: ACG1, ACG2 and ACG3; Bargur: BCG1, BCG2 and BCG3; Kangayam: KCG1, KCG2 and KCG3; Pulikulam: PCG1, PCG2 and PCG3; Umblachery: UCG1, UCG2 and UCG3) were prepared sent for whole genome sequencing.
 
Illumina sequencing and reconstruction of mitochondrial genomes
       
The genomic DNA was sheared into fragments and genome sequence library was constructed by ligating specialized adapters at both ends of sheared fragments using NEBNext® Ultra™ II FS DNA Library Prep kit. The libraries were subjected to sequencing on Illumina HiSeq 2500 and Novoseq 6000 platforms (Illumina, San Diego, CA) and paired end reads were generated. After sequencing, the filtered reads were mapped against Bos indicus complete mitochondrion reference sequence, (Nellore breed, Genbank accession no. GCF-000247795.1) using BWA-MEM algorithm v0.7.17-r1188 with the default parameters. Variant calling of mitochondrial genes was performed using Genome Analysis Tool Kit Haplotype Caller v 4.2.0.0-1.
 
Data analysis
 
Polymorphism and divergence analyses of the sequences were performed using DnaSP v 6.12.03 (DNA Sequence Polymorphism) software (Rozas et al., 2017). The polymorphism was measured in terms of nucleotide diversity, Pi (p) which gives the average number of nucleotide differences between two sequences (Nei, 1987).
       
The divergence was measured in terms for average number of nucleotide differences (Tajima, 1983) at individual sample level and the total data, number of haplotypes ‘H’ (excluding gaps in the alignment), haplotype diversity ‘HD’ (Nei, 1987). The genetic differentiation was measured by various estimates like haplotype based HS, HST, nucleotide sequenced based KS, KST and Z (Hudson et al., 1992) and Snn (Hudson, 2000). The statistical methods for testing the hypothesis of genetic differentiation among the breeds were given by Chi-square test for haplotype data. (Nei, 1987; Hu dson et al., 1992) and permutation test for the various measures (Hudson et al., 1992) were utilized. The gene flow estimates were computed assuming haploid data as the mitochondrial DNA is haploid. The estimates were obtained from nucleotide sequence data as FST (Lynch and Crease, 1990) with the estimated number of migrants (Nm). 
       
The conservation of sequences among the populations was analyzed using sliding window analysis with default parameters in DnaSP. The conservation was measured in terms of conservation index (C) and Homozygosity (H); ‘C’ as a proportion of conserved sequences and ‘H’ as 1-heterozygosity.
       
To test the theory of neutral evolution, the test statistics such as Tajimas’s D (Tajima, 1989), Fu and Li’s D and Fu and Li’s F (Fu and Li, 1993Fu, 1997) were computed using proportion of segregating sites within a gene by DnaSP software.
       
Mitochondrial DNA sequences of studied breeds were compared with published mitogenomes belonging to Nellore cattle and Bos taurus cattle breeds from NCBI database. All the mitochondrial sequences were aligned using Muscle algorithm available in MEGA x (Kumar et al., 2018). Phylogenetic analysis was performed using MEGA x (Molecular Evolutionary Genetic Analysis) version 11. Model Test (Posada and Crandall 1998) was performed to check the best suitable model that explains the sequence divergence based on AICC and BIC values. Neighbour joining tree was constructed using Bos taurus mitochondrial sequences as an out group in MEGA X software. The topology was tested using bootstrap approach with 1000 replicates. Multi-dimensional scaling was plotted to know the clustering of Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle breeds using SPSS v 20 software. Analysis of molecular variance among the populations was done using AMOVA in Genalex v 6.5.
Whole genome sequencing
       
For each sample, the depth of coverage for mitochondrial genome ranged from 145.82 to 1652.72 x with an average of 802.59 x when the paired-end reads generated were aligned to the Bos indicus reference genome sequence (GCF-000247795.1-Bos-indicus-1.0). The mitochondrial genome sequences ranged from 16,338 to 16,340 bp with 13 protein-coding genes, two ribosomal RNA (12S and 16S rRNA) genes, 22 transfer RNA (tRNA) genes and one control region of 913 bp (D-loop) in cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu as found in other mammals.
 
Variant calling
       
A total of 273 variants observed across 13 protein coding regions from the 15 pooled samples sequenced; of which, 268 were bi-allelic SNPs, three multi-allelic SNPs and two InDels. Pooling of the samples strenghtened the richness of variant calling in the present study as also supported by Gautier et al., (2013). Of the biallelic SNPs, 256 SNPs were observed to be transitions while the remaining 12 were transversions. Out of total variants detected, 157 variants were found to be synonymus mutations with very low effect; whereas, 30 variants were observed to be non synonymous (missense) mutations Eighty six variants (84 SNPs and 2 InDels) were detected on the upstream region and have a modifier effect on the protein synthesis. List of variants observed in all the 13 protein coding regions were presented in Table 1. Highest number of variants was found in Pulikulam cattle across the coding regions. ND1 gene was observed to have highest number of variants (71) across 15 samples but is restricted to 45 loci indicating its polymorphism as 1.57 per locus. Lowest number of variants (5) were observed in ATP8 (five loci) and ND4L (four loci) genes. Information pertaining to number of polymorphic loci pertaining to 13 protein coding genes in five cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu is shown in Fig 1.

Table 1: Total number of variants observed in the protein coding region of Mt genome among five cattle breeds.



Fig 1: Breed-wise number of polymorphic loci in mitochondrial protein coding genes of cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu.



Genetic structure of indigenous cattle breeds
 
The amount of genetic variation within a population provides an insight into the demographic structure and evolutionary history of a population. The polymorphism and genetic diversity indices of five cattle breeds were detected using DnaSP v 6.12.03 software for the 15 mitochondrial DNA sequences and are presented in Table 2. The polymorphism, measured in terms of nucleotide diversity (p) is the average number of nucleotide differences between two sequences. Moderate amount of polymorphism was observed in Alambadi, Bargur, Kangayam, Pulikulam and Umblachery cattle breeds with average difference in nucleotides between the two sequences within the populations as 0.11, 0.12, 0.14, 0.76 and 0.12 per cent respectively. A total of 390 sites were found to be polymorphic of which, 46, 58, 43, 205 and 38 were observed in Alambadi, Bargur, Kangayam, Pulikulam and Umblachery cattle breeds respectively. Of these 390 sites, 304 sites were found as segregating. Number of polymorphic sites in the present study are more (390) than that revealed by Chung (2013) in Korean cattle (286-288). A total of 22 regions in Alambadi, Kangayam and Umblachery; 23 regions in Pulikulam and 25 regions in Bargur cattle are found to be conserved significantly (p<0.05).

Table 2: Polymorphism and diversity indices of mitochondrial genome sequences among different cattle breeds.


       
Genetic diversity has a vital role in the survivability and adaptation of the populations. The average number of nucleotide differences between the two sequences (p) within the populations and the number of segregating sites revealed high haplotype diversity. All the 15 sequences of five cattle breeds were categorised into 15 different haplotypes with haplotype diversity (HD) of 1.0 indicating high degree of haplotype diversity. Haplotype diversity of the present study was more than that reported by Chung (2013) in Korean cattle (0.052 to 0.20) and Petretto et al., (2022) in Sardinian local cattle stock (0.879). The genetic differences were observed between populations of the same breed, indicating that the identified haplotypes may be used to characterize group specificities of each cattle breed (bulls, moderate yielders, low yielders).
 
Genetic differentiation
 
DnaSP was used to compute nucleotide test statistics such as Ks, Kst , Snn  and haplotype statistics such as Hs and Hst  to describe the genetic divergence within the populations. All the 15 samples were separated into 15 haplogroups. The Hs, Hst, Ks, Kst, Z and Snn values observed in the present study were 1.00, 0.00, 45.00, -0.032, 57.20 and 0.033 respectively. As per overall genetic differentiation metrics, it was observed that no genetic differentiation among the Bos indicus cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu under study. High gene flow between the types, which could be attributable to introgression during breeding programmes and subsequent selection, could explain the reason for no genetic distinction.
 
Gene flow
 
Gene flow is a crucial technique for spreading genetic variation between populations. The overall FST value was 0.4932 indicating genetic differentiation among the populations analysed when 24 sequences from Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle were included together. This indicates that these populations are genetically distinct. On the contrary, the overall FST was -0.04435 with a net migration rate of 11.77 when only Bos indicus sequences of Tamil Nadu were included (three each from Alambadi, Bargur, Kangayam, Pulikulam and Umblachery) indicating high rate of intermixing among the five populations and the effective migrants were also similarly high (11.77), suggesting high gene flow between them. Gene flow at high rates can minimise genetic differentiation between the two populations, resulting in increased homogeneity. Because the majority of cattle breeding in India have not been systematically evolved, gene movement between populations is generally expected. FST value observed in the present study (value) was lower than that reported by Petretto et al., (2022) in Sardinian local cattle (0.056) with high amount of genetic differentiation.
 
Neutral evolution
 
The test of neutral evolution analyzed based on the total number of mutations and segregating sites across all 15 sequences of Bos indicus breeds, revealed statistically significant (P<0.05) negative values for Tajimas’s D (-2.095), Fu and Li’s D (-2.974) and Fu and Li’s F (-3.150) test statistics. A significant negative Tajima’s D (P<0.05) for all the Bos indicus cattle indicated an excess of low frequency polymorphisms than expected, indicating existence of purifying selection and population expansion among the genetic groups under study. Similar findings were reported by Petretto et al., (2022) in Sardinian local cattle stock.

Phylogenetic analysis
 
Maximum likelihood based phylogenetic analysis was performed with 15 complete mitogenomes of five breeds combined with eight taurine sequences and one Nellore cattle reference mitogenome sequence and is shown in Fig 2. HKY+G+I (Hasegawa-Kishino-Yano + Gamma distribution + Evolutionarily invariable sites) model was found to have lowest AICC and BIC values and was selected as the best model to explain the divergence of sequences. The phylogenetic tree divided all the 24 sequences into two distinct haplogroups: Bos indicus and Bos taurus (Fig 1). It divided Bos indicus clade into two subclades. Interestingly, Zwerg Zebu, an European dwarf zebu cattle breed was placed in the Bos indicus group. Similar findings were observed by Pramod et al., (2018) where, Zwerg Zebu cattle was placed in the Bos indicus lineage. It was also found that one sequence from Pulikulam breed of cattle (PCG2) was unambiguously associated with the Bos taurus haplogroup, but representing an unknown divergent mitochondrial sub-haplogroup.

Fig 2: Phylogenetic analysis of cattle, based on the complete mitochondrial DNA sequence. Accession numbers of other breeds used are as follows:


 
Multi-dimensional scaling
 
Multi dimensional scaling clearly segregated 24 sequences into two different clusters as Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle. These results were in accordance with the phylogenetic analysis. The Zwerg Zebu cattle was placed in Bos indicus cluster whereas one sequence from Pulikulam cattle to be joined to Bos taurus cluster. The MDS plot of 24 mitochondrial sequences belonging to Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle is displayed in Fig 3.

Fig 3: MDS plot showing clustering of Bos indicus and Bos taurus cattle breeds.


 
Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA)
 
AMOVA analysis indicated there was no differentiation of the five cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu (between-population component of variation is zero) although all the diversity was gathered at the within-breed level (Table 3).

Table 3: Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) of mtDNA sequences from cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis is a decisive tool in assessing the maternal origin, phylogeny and population structure of domestic animals. Cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu are known for heat tolerance and disease resistance and can survive in a harsh environment and on low-quality roughages. In conclusion, our findings revealed no genetic differentiation among the Bos indicus cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu which might be due to high gene flow between  them. Hence, assessing the genetic structure of these cattle was of meticulous importance for designing breeding strategies and conservation programs in future.
The  authors  are  thankful  to  GoI-NPBB-TNLDA Project on “Establishment of National Facility for Molecular Screening of Cattle for Inherited Disorders and Parentage Verification”, functioning at the Department of Animal Genetics and Breeding, Madras Veterinary College, Chennai. India.
None.

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