Close association between sequence polymorphism in the KIT gene and the roan coat color in horses
The roan coat color in horses is controlled by a dominant allele that is lethal in the homozygous condition. Phenotypic similarities to some pigmentation disorders in human and mouse, combined with comparative mapping data, identified KIT, encoding the mast cell growth factor receptor, as a major candidate gene for the roan locus (Rn). Rn has previously been mapped to equine linkage group (LG) II. In this study, LGII was expanded with KIT and PDGFRA (platelet-derived growth factor receptor α) by use of RFLP and linkage analysis. Moreover, highly significant linkage disequilibrium between Rn and a KIT TaqI RFLP, representing a synonymous substitution in exon 19, was revealed. There was a strong KIT-Rn association in most breeds. Almost the complete KIT-encoding sequence was determined by sequence analysis of RT-PCR products. Comparison of horse KIT cDNA sequences, representing three different alleles (two different rn and one Rn), revealed five sequence polymorphisms and several mRNA splice variants, but none of these proved to be specifically associated with Rn. An insertion of a partial (79 bp) LINE1-element between exons 1 and 2, leading to a frameshift, represented about 30% of KIT transcripts in the Belgian roan horse used for the sequence analysis. However, an association between this L1 splice insertion and the roan phenotype was not verified when testing additional unrelated roan and non-roan horses from different breeds. The study strengthens the hypothesis that the roan coat color is controlled by KIT, but further analyses are needed to reveal the causative mutation(s).
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