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Anim Reprod Sci. 2004 Jul;82-83:247-53.

Fecundity genes in sheep.

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AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel, New Zealand.


Since 1980 there has been increasing interest in the identification and utilisation of major genes for prolificacy in sheep. Mutations that increase ovulation rate have been discovered in the BMPR-1B, BMP15 and GDF9 genes, and others are known to exist from the expressed inheritance patterns although the mutations have not yet been located. In the case of BMP15, four different mutations have been discovered but each produces the same phenotype. The modes of inheritance of the different prolificacy genes include autosomal dominant genes with additive effects on ovulation rate (BMPR-1B; Lacaune), autosomal over-dominant genes with infertility in homozygous females (GDF9), X-linked over-dominant genes with infertility in homozygous females (BMP15), and X-linked maternally imprinted genes (FecX2). The size of the effect of one copy of a mutation on ovulation rate ranges from an extra 0.4 ovulations per oestrus for the FecX2 mutation to an extra 1.5 ovulations per oestrus for the BMPR-1B mutation. DNA tests enable some of these mutations to be used in genetic improvement programmes based on marker assisted selection.

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