Association of UDP-galactose-4-epimerase with milk protein concentration in the Chinese Holstein population

Cong Li, Wentao Cai, Shuli Liu, Chenghao Zhou, Mingyue Cao, Hongwei Yin, Dongxiao Sun, Shengli Zhang, Juan J. Loor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: An initial RNA-Sequencing study revealed that UDP-galactose-4-epimerase (GALE) was one of the most promising candidates for milk protein concentration in Chinese Holstein cattle. This enzyme catalyzes the interconversion of UDP-galactose and UDP-glucose, an important step in galactose catabolism. To further validate the genetic effect of GALE on milk protein traits, genetic variations were identified, and genotypes-phenotypes associations were performed. Methods: The entire coding region and the 5’-regulatory region (5’-UTR) of GALE were re-sequenced using pooled DNA of 17 unrelated sires. Association studies for five milk production traits were performed using a mixed linear animal model with a population encompassing 1,027 Chinese Holstein cows. Results: A total of three variants in GALE were identified, including two novel variants (g.2114 A>G and g.2037 G>A) in the 5’-UTR and one previously reported variant (g.3836 G>C) in an intron. All three single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with milk yield (p<0.0001), fat yield (p = 0.0006 to <0.0001), protein yield (p = 0.0232 to <0.0001) and protein percentage (p<0.0001), while no significant associations were detected between the SNPs and fat percentage. A strong linkage disequilibrium (D’ = 0.96 to 1.00) was observed among all three SNPs, and a 5 Kb haplotype block involving three main haplotypes with GAG, AGC, and AGG was formed. The results of haplotype association analyses were consistent with the results of single locus association analysis (p<0.0001). The phenotypic variance ratio above 3.00% was observed for milk protein yield that was explained by SNP-g.3836G >C. Conclusion: Overall, our findings provided new insights into the polymorphic variations in bovine GALE gene and their associations with milk protein concentration. The data indicate their potential uses for marker-assisted breeding or genetic selection schemes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1725-1731
Number of pages7
JournalAsian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Dairy Cattle
  • GALE Gene
  • Genetic Effect
  • Haplotype
  • Milk Protein Traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Engineering(all)


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