Heritability of recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis in standardbred and thoroughbred racehorses derived from snp genotyping data

Elaine M. Norton, James R. Mickelson, Matthew M. Binns, Sarah C. Blott, Paul Caputo, Cajsa M. Isgren, Annette M. McCoy, Alison Moore, Richard J. Piercy, June E. Swinburne, Mark Vaudin, Molly E. McCue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis (RER) in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses is characterized by episodes of muscle rigidity and cell damage that often recur upon strenuous exercise. The objective was to evaluate the importance of genetic factors in RER by obtaining an unbiased estimate of heritability in cohorts of unrelated Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses. Four hundred ninety-one Thoroughbred and 196 Standardbred racehorses were genotyped with the 54K or 74K SNP genotyping arrays. Heritability was calculated from genomewide SNP data with a mixed linear and Bayesian model, utilizing the standard genetic relationship matrix (GRM). Both the mixed linear and Bayesian models estimated heritability of RER in Thoroughbreds to be approximately 0.34 and in Standardbred racehorses to be approximately 0.45 after adjusting for disease prevalence and sex. To account for potential differences in the genetic architecture of the underlying causal variants, heritability estimates were adjusted based on linkage disequilibrium weighted kinship matrix, minor allele frequency and variant effect size, yielding heritability estimates that ranged between 0.41-0.46 (Thoroughbreds) and 0.39-0.49 (Standardbreds). In conclusion, between 34-46% and 39-49% of the variance in RER susceptibility in Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses, respectively, can be explained by the SNPs present on these 2 genotyping arrays, indicating that RER is moderately heritable. These data provide further rationale for the investigation of genetic mutations associated with RER susceptibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-543
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The American Genetic Association 2016.


  • Muscle disease
  • RER
  • Tying-up


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