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Mol Biol Rep. 2009 Mar;36(3):431-6. Epub 2007 Dec 13.

Pigmentation in Black-boned sheep (Ovis aries): association with polymorphism of the MC1R gene.

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Yunnan Provincial Laboratory of Animal Nutrition and Feed Science, Faculty of Animal Science, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming, China.


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.

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