The association of mitochondrial DNA haplotypes and phenotypic traits in pigs

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Background: The mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) is an emerging determiner of phenotypic traits and disease. mtDNA is inherited in a strict maternal fashion from the population of mitochondria present in the egg at fertilisation. Individuals are assigned to mtDNA haplotypes and those with sequences that cluster closely have common origins and their migration patterns can be mapped. Previously, we identified five mtDNA haplotypes in the commercial breeding lines of Australian pigs, which defined their common origins, and showed how these mtDNA haplotypes influenced litter size and reproductive function in terms of egg and embryo quality and fertilisation efficiency. Results: We have determined whether mtDNA haplotypes influence other phenotypic traits. These include fat density; muscle depth; fat to leanness ratios; lifetime daily gain; teat quality; muscle score; front and rear leg assessments; percentage offspring weaned; weaning to oestrus intervals; gilt age at selection; and gestational length. In all, we assessed 5687 pigs of which 2762 were females and 2925 were males. We assessed all animals together and then by gender. We further assessed by gender based on whether a sire had joined with females from only one haplotype or from more than one haplotype. We determined that fat density, muscle depth, fat to leanness ratios, lifetime daily gain and teat quality were influenced by mtDNA haplotype and that there were gender specific effects on teat quality. Conclusions: Our data illustrate that mtDNA haplotypes are associated with a number of important phenotypic traits indicative of economic breeding values in breeding pigs with gender-specific differences. Interestingly, there are 'trade offs' whereby some mtDNA haplotypes perform better for one selection criterion, such as muscle depth, but less so for another, for example teat quality, indicating that pig mtDNA haplotypes are afforded an advantage in one respect but a disadvantage in another.

Original languageEnglish
Article number41
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2018


  • Evolutionary trade offs
  • Haplotype
  • Maternally inherited
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Phenotype
  • Pig

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