Scrotal hernia in pigs is a complex trait likely affected by genetic and environmental factors. A large-scale association analysis of positional and functional candidate genes was conducted in four previously identified genomic regions linked to hernia susceptibility on Sus scrofa chromosomes 2 and 12, as well as the fifth region around 67 cM on chromosome 2, respectively. In total, 151 out of 416 SNPs discovered were genotyped successfully. Using a family-based analysis we found that four regions surrounding ELF5, KIF18A, COL23A1 on chromosome 2, and NPTX1 on chromosome 12, respectively, may contain the genetic variants important for the development of the scrotal hernia in pigs. These findings were replicated in another case-control dataset. The SNPs around the ELF5 region were in high linkage disequilibrium with each other, and a haplotype containing SNPs from ELF5 and CAT was highly significantly associated with hernia development. Extensive re-sequencing work focused on the KIF18A gene did not detect any further SNPs with extensive association signals. These genes may be involved in the estrogen receptor signaling pathway (KIF18A and NPTX1), the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (ELF5) and the collagen metabolism pathway (COL23A1), which are associated with the important molecular characteristics of hernia pathophysiology. Further investigation on the molecular mechanisms of these genes may provide more molecular clues on hernia development in pigs
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