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Heredity (Edinb). 2014 Feb;112(2):122-31. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.83. Epub 2013 Sep 11.

A genome-wide scan study identifies a single nucleotide substitution in ASIP associated with white versus non-white coat-colour variation in sheep (Ovis aries).

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1] Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Jokioinen, Finland [2] Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Jokioinen, Finland.
1] Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Jokioinen, Finland [2] Department of Biology, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.


In sheep, coat colour (and pattern) is one of the important traits of great biological, economic and social importance. However, the genetics of sheep coat colour has not yet been fully clarified. We conducted a genome-wide association study of sheep coat colours by genotyping 47 303 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the Finnsheep population in Finland. We identified 35 SNPs associated with all the coat colours studied, which cover genomic regions encompassing three known pigmentation genes (TYRP1, ASIP and MITF) in sheep. Eighteen of these associations were confirmed in further tests between white versus non-white individuals, but none of the 35 associations were significant in the analysis of only non-white colours. Across the tests, the s66432.1 in ASIP showed significant association (P=4.2 × 10(-11) for all the colours; P=2.3 × 10(-11) for white versus non-white colours) with the variation in coat colours and strong linkage disequilibrium with other significant variants surrounding the ASIP gene. The signals detected around the ASIP gene were explained by differences in white versus non-white alleles. Further, a genome scan for selection for white coat pigmentation identified a strong and striking selection signal spanning ASIP. Our study identified the main candidate gene for the coat colour variation between white and non-white as ASIP, an autosomal gene that has been directly implicated in the pathway regulating melanogenesis. Together with ASIP, the two other newly identified genes (TYRP1 and MITF) in the Finnsheep, bordering associated SNPs, represent a new resource for enriching sheep coat-colour genetics and breeding.

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