The Y chromosomes of cattle have more genes and are more active than the Y chromosomes of primates, according to Penn State researchers.

Understanding this discovery may help biologists better understand how cattle and other mammals evolved, as well as help animal breeders and farmers better maintain and enhance fertility in the cattle industry, says Wansheng Liu, Penn State associate professor of animal genomics.

"Low fertility is a big problem for the dairy and beef industry," Liu says. "In the past 60 years, we paid more attention to milk, or beef production as a sign of herd success, but, even as milk production goes up, the animal's fertility goes down, which means it's time to pay more attention to male fertility now."

The researchers identified 1,274 genes in the male specific region of the bovine Y chromosome, compared to the 31 to 78 genes associated in the Y chromosomes of various primates. They also identified 375 novel noncoding gene families on the bovine Y chromosome, which are predominantly expressed in different stages of the testis.

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