Heritability and recursive influence of host genetics on the rumen microbiota drive body weight variance in male Hu sheep lambs

Weimin Wang*, Yukun Zhang, Xiaoxue Zhang, Chong Li, Lvfeng Yuan, Deyin Zhang, Yuan Zhao, Xiaolong Li, Jiangbo Cheng, Changchun Lin, Liming Zhao, Jianghui Wang, Dan Xu, Xiangpeng Yue, Wanhong Li, Xiuxiu Wen, Zhihua Jiang, Xuezhi Ding, Ghasem Hosseini Salekdeh, Fadi Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Background: Heritable rumen microbiota is an important modulator of ruminant growth performance. However, no information exists to date on host genetics-rumen microbiota interactions and their association with phenotype in sheep. To solve this, we curated and analyzed whole-genome resequencing genotypes, 16S rumen-microbiota data, and longitudinal body weight (BW) phenotypes from 1150 sheep. 

Results: A variance component model indicated significant heritability of rumen microbial community diversity. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using microbial features as traits identified 411 loci-taxon significant associations (P < 10−8). We found a heritability of 39% for 180-day-old BW, while also the rumen microbiota likely played a significant role, explaining that 20% of the phenotypic variation. Microbiota-wide association studies (MWAS) and GWAS identified four marker genera (Bonferroni corrected P < 0.05) and five novel genetic variants (P < 10−8) that were significantly associated with BW. Integrative analysis identified the mediating role of marker genera in genotype influencing phenotype and unravelled that the same genetic markers have direct and indirect effects on sheep weight. 

Conclusions: This study reveals a reciprocal interplay among host genetic variations, the rumen microbiota and the body weight traits of sheep. The information obtained provide insights into the diverse microbiota characteristics of rumen and may help in designing precision microbiota management strategies for controlling and manipulating sheep rumen microbiota to increase productivity. [MediaObject not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number197
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2023


  • Body weight
  • Heritability
  • Host genetics
  • Microbiability
  • Microbiota GWAS
  • Rumen microbiota
  • Sheep


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