Genomic adaptation of Ethiopian indigenous cattle to high altitude


The mountainous areas of Ethiopia represent one of the most extreme environmental challenges in Africa faced by humans and other inhabitants. Selection for high-altitude adaptation is expected to have imprinted the genomes of livestock living in these areas. Here we assess the genomic signatures of positive selection for high altitude adaptation in three cattle populations from the Ethiopian mountainous areas (Semien, Choke, and Bale mountains) compared to three Ethiopian lowland cattle populations (Afar, Ogaden, and Boran), using whole-genome resequencing and three genome scan approaches for signature of selection (iHS, XP-CLR, and PBS). We identified several candidate selection signature regions and several high-altitude adaptation genes. These include genes such as ITPR2, MB, and ARNT previously reported in the human population inhabiting the Ethiopian highlands. Furthermore, we present evidence of strong selection and high divergence between Ethiopian high- and low-altitude cattle populations at three new candidate genes (CLCA2, SLC26A2, and CBFA2T3), putatively linked to high-altitude adaptation in cattle. Our findings provide possible examples of convergent selection between cattle and humans as well as unique African cattle signature to the challenges of living in the Ethiopian mountainous regions.


Terefe, E., Belay, G., Han, J., Hanotte, O. and Tijjani, A. 2022. Genomic adaptation of Ethiopian indigenous cattle to high altitude. Frontiers in Genetics 13:960234.


  • Terefe, Endashaw
  • Belay, Gurja
  • Han Jianlin
  • Hanotte, Olivier H.
  • Tijjani, Abdulfatai