Genomic analysis of worldwide sheep breeds reveals PDGFD as a major target of fat-tail selection in sheep

Kunzhe Dong, Min Yang, Jiangang Han, Qing Ma, Jilong Han, Ziyi Song, Cuicheng Luosang, Neena Amatya Gorkhali, Bohui Yang, Xiaohong He, Yuehui Ma, Lin Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Fat tail is a unique trait in sheep acquired during domestication. Several genomic analyses have been conducted in sheep breeds from limited geographic origins to identify the genetic factors underlying this trait. Nevertheless, these studies obtained different candidates. The results of these regional studies were easily biased by the breed structures. Results: To minimize the bias and distinguish the true candidates, we used an extended data set of 968 sheep representing 18 fat-tailed breeds and 14 thin-tailed breeds from around the world, and integrated two statistical tests to detect selection signatures, including Genetic Fixation Index (FST) and difference of derived allele frequency (ΔDAF). The results showed that platelet derived growth factor D (PDGFD) exhibited the highest genetic differentiation between fat- and thin-tailed sheep breeds. Analysis of sequence variation identified that a 6.8-kb region within the first intron of PDGFD is likely the target of positive selection and contains regulatory mutation(s) in fat-tailed sheep. Histological and gene expression analyses demonstrated that PDGFD expression is associated with maturation and hemostasis of adipocytes. Further retrospective analysis of public transcriptomic datasets revealed that PDGFD expression is down-regulated during adipogenesis in both human and mouse, and is higher in fat tissues of obese individuals than that in lean individuals. Conclusions: These results reveal that PDGFD is the predominant factor for the fat tail phenotype in sheep by contributing to adiopogenesis and maintaining the hemostasis of mature adipocytes. This study provides insights into the selection of fat-tailed sheep and has important application to animal breeding, as well as obesity-related human diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number800
JournalBMC Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Adipogenesis
  • Fat deposit
  • Fat-tailed sheep
  • Genomic scan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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