A limited number of Y chromosome lineages is present in North American Holsteins

Xiang Peng Yue, Chad Dechow, Wan Sheng Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Holsteins are the most numerous dairy cattle breed in North America and the breed has undergone intensive selection for improving milk production and conformation. Theoretically, this intensive selection could lead to a reduction of the effective population size and reduced genetic diversity. The objective of this study was to investigate the effective population size of the Holstein Y chromosome and the effects of limited Y chromosome lineages on male reproduction and the future of the breed. Paternal pedigree information of 62,897 Holstein bulls born between 1950 and 2013 in North America and 220,872 bulls evaluated by multiple-trait across-country genetic evaluations of Interbull (Uppsala, Sweden) were collected and analyzed. The results indicated that the number of Y chromosome lineages in Holsteins has undergone a dramatic decrease during the past 50 years because of artificial selection and the application of artificial insemination (AI) technology. All current Holstein AI bulls in North America are the descendants of only 2 ancestors (Hulleman and Neptune H) born in 1880. These 2 ancestral Y-lineages are continued through 3 dominant pedigrees from the 1960s; namely, Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief, Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation, and Penstate Ivanhoe Star, with a contribution of 48.78, 51.06, and 0.16% to the Holstein bull population in the 2010s, respectively. The Y-lineage of Penstate Ivanhoe Star is almost eliminated from the breed. The genetic variations in the 2 ancestral Y-lineages were evaluated among 257 bulls by determining the copy number variations (CNV) of 3 Y-linked gene families: PRAMEY, HSFY, and ZNF280BY, which are spread along the majority (95%) of the bovine Y chromosome male-specific region (MSY). No significant difference was found between the 2 ancestral Y-lineages, although large CNV were observed within each lineage. This study suggests minimal genetic diversity on the Y chromosome in Holsteins and provides a starting point for investigating the effect of the extremely limited number of Y-lineages on male reproduction and other traits important for the future of the Holstein breed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2738-2745
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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