Lactate dehydrogenase type A gene

LDHA gene g.2582481G>A

Required genotypes LDHAAA > LDHAAG (~ LDHAAB) > LDHAGG (~ LDHABB)
Race type Mainly short to medium distance (300-850 km)

The importance of lactate dehydrogenase (an enzyme encoded by the LDHA gene) for physical and mental health is well known. Although it is a logical mind leap, the effect of the point mutations in the LDHA gene on the flight performance of pigeons cannot be fully explained by an altered action of this enzyme. There may be other unknown mutations of interest that inherit in association with the LDHAA allele.

Nevertheless, the usefulness of marker-assisted selection on the LDHAA allele in racing pigeons is indisputably scientifically proven and there is no doubt that selection can further maximise the genetic quality of racing pigeons in terms of performance.

Three genotypes are distinguished following a point mutation on the LDHA gene:


Presumably, the many years of (unconscious) selection on the LDHAA allele is the consequence of selection by the ‘survival capacity’ of pigeons. Survival skills include excellent orientation, increased endurance and better resistance to environmental hazards such as predators and adverse weather conditions.

The LDHAA allele is significantly more common in the Belgian population among the best performing pigeons on middle-distance flights (300-850 km). This means that LDHAAG (~ LDHAAB) and especially LDHAAA pigeons perform better in these races. The allele is less prominent among the best performing pigeons on long-distance races. At middle distance, it appears that among the markers DRD4 and LDHA, favourable LDHA variants have the greatest effect on performance and favourable DRD4 variants further support these effects.

How often does this allele occur in a normal population of racing pigeons?

This is difficult to estimate at the moment. A few studies in which a (small) sample was taken from a normal population give the following picture. In a normal Belgian population of racing pigeons, about 3.74% of the pigeons have the LDHAAA genotype. About 22.42% of the pigeons have the LDHAAG (~ LDHAAB) genotype. These figures are probably an overestimate. The LDHAA allele is indeed more frequently found among the best performing pigeons.

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