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Anim Genet. 2008 Jun;39(3):306-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2052.2008.01715.x. Epub 2008 Apr 10.

An equine chromosome 3 inversion is associated with the tobiano spotting pattern in German horse breeds.

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  • 1Institute of Genetics, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Berne, Switzerland.


The tobiano white-spotting pattern is one of several known depigmentation phenotypes in horses and is desired by many horse breeders and owners. The tobiano spotting phenotype is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Horses that are heterozygous or homozygous for the tobiano allele (To) are phenotypically indistinguishable. A SNP associated with To had previously been identified in intron 13 of the equine KIT gene and was used for an indirect gene test. The test was useful in several horse breeds. However, genotyping this sequence variant in the Lewitzer horse breed revealed that 14% of horses with the tobiano pattern did not show the polymorphism in intron 13 and consequently the test was not useful to identify putative homozygotes for To within this breed. Speculations were raised that an independent mutation might cause the tobiano spotting pattern in this breed. Recently, the putative causative mutation for To was described as a large chromosomal inversion on equine chromosome 3. One of the inversion breakpoints is approximately 70 kb downstream of the KIT gene and probably disrupts a regulatory element of the KIT gene. We obtained genotypes for the intron 13 SNP and the chromosomal inversion for 204 tobiano spotted horses and 24 control animals of several breeds. The genotyping data confirmed that the chromosomal inversion was perfectly associated with the To allele in all investigated horses. Therefore, the new test is suitable to discriminate heterozygous To/+ and homozygous To/To horses in the investigated breeds.

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