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Anim Genet. 2013 Dec;44(6):742-9. doi: 10.1111/age.12070. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Genetic factors controlling wool shedding in a composite Easycare sheep flock.

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The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian, EH25 9RG, UK.


Historically, sheep have been selectively bred for desirable traits including wool characteristics. However, recent moves towards extensive farming and reduced farm labour have seen a renewed interest in Easycare breeds. The aim of this study was to quantify the underlying genetic architecture of wool shedding in an Easycare flock. Wool shedding scores were collected from 565 pedigreed commercial Easycare sheep from 2002 to 2010. The wool scoring system was based on a 10-point (0-9) scale, with score 0 for animals retaining full fleece and 9 for those completely shedding. DNA was sampled from 200 animals of which 48 with extreme phenotypes were genotyped using a 50-k SNP chip. Three genetic analyses were performed: heritability analysis, complex segregation analysis to test for a major gene hypothesis and a genome-wide association study to map regions in the genome affecting the trait. Phenotypes were treated as a continuous or binary variable and categories. High estimates of heritability (0.80 when treated as a continuous, 0.65-0.75 as binary and 0.75 as categories) for shedding were obtained from linear mixed model analyses. Complex segregation analysis gave similar estimates (0.80 ± 0.06) to those above with additional evidence for a major gene with dominance effects. Mixed model association analyses identified four significant (P < 0.05) SNPs. Further analyses of these four SNPs in all 200 animals revealed that one of the SNPs displayed dominance effects similar to those obtained from the complex segregation analyses. In summary, we found strong genetic control for wool shedding, demonstrated the possibility of a single putative dominant gene controlling this trait and identified four SNPs that may be in partial linkage disequilibrium with gene(s) controlling shedding.


fleece loss; genetic control; genome-wide association study; segregation analysis; sheep

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