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Genetics. 2010 Jan;184(1):267-75. doi: 10.1534/genetics.109.109629. Epub 2009 Oct 26.

Defining and mapping mammalian coat pattern genes: multiple genomic regions implicated in domestic cat stripes and spots.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Mason Eye Institute, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA.


Mammalian coat patterns (e.g., spots, stripes) are hypothesized to play important roles in camouflage and other relevant processes, yet the genetic and developmental bases for these phenotypes are completely unknown. The domestic cat, with its diversity of coat patterns, is an excellent model organism to investigate these phenomena. We have established three independent pedigrees to map the four recognized pattern variants classically considered to be specified by a single locus, Tabby; in order of dominance, these are the unpatterned agouti form called "Abyssinian" or "ticked" (T(a)), followed by Spotted (T(s)), Mackerel (T(M)), and Blotched (t(b)). We demonstrate that at least three different loci control the coat markings of the domestic cat. One locus, responsible for the Abyssinian form (herein termed the Ticked locus), maps to an approximately 3.8-Mb region on cat chromosome B1. A second locus controls the Tabby alleles T(M) and t(b), and maps to an approximately 5-Mb genomic region on cat chromosome A1. One or more additional loci act as modifiers and create a spotted coat by altering mackerel stripes. On the basis of our results and associated observations, we hypothesize that mammalian patterned coats are formed by two distinct processes: a spatially oriented developmental mechanism that lays down a species-specific pattern of skin cell differentiation and a pigmentation-oriented mechanism that uses information from the preestablished pattern to regulate the synthesis of melanin profiles.

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