Pigmentation in Black-boned sheep (Ovis aries): association with polymorphism of the MC1R gene
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Variations in vertebrate skin and hair color are due to varied amounts of eumelanin (brown/black) and phaeomelanin (red/yellow) produced by the melanocytes. The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is a regulator of eumelanin and phaeomelanin production in the melanocytes, and MC1R mutations causing coat color changes are known in many vertebrates. We have sequenced the entire coding region of the MC1R gene in Black-boned, Nanping indigenous and Romney Marsh sheep populations and found two silent mutation sites of A12G and G144C, respectively. PCR-RFLP of G144C showed that frequency of allele G in Black-boned, Nanping indigenous and Romney Marsh sheep was 0.818, 0.894 and 0, respectively. Sheep with GG genotype had significantly higher (P < 0.05) tyrosinase activity than sheep with CC genotype in the all investigated samples. Moreover, there was significant effect of MC1R genotype on coat color, suggesting that MC1R gene could affect coat color but not black traits. There would be merit in further studies using molecular techniques to elucidate the cause of black traits in these Black-boned sheep.
KeywordsMelanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) Pigmentation Black-boned sheep
Financial support for this study provided from the Yunnan Provincial Natural Science Fund (Project Nos. 2004C0039M and 2006C0005Z) and National Nature Science Foundation of China (Project No. 30460089) are acknowledged with gratitude. The authors thank the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for critical reviews on this manuscript. The authors also appreciated the help of staff from the Yunnan Stud Sheep Farm and Nanping County Animal Science and Veterinary Bureau during samples collection.
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