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PLoS One. 2014 May 8;9(5):e96453. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096453. eCollection 2014.

Microarray-based analysis of the differential expression of melanin synthesis genes in dark and light-muzzle Korean cattle.

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Institute of Genetic Engineering, Hankyong National University, Ansung, Kyeonggido, Korea.
Department of Chemical Engineering, Hankyong National University, Ansung, Kyeonggi-do, Korea.
Institute of Genetic Engineering, Hankyong National University, Ansung, Kyeonggido, Korea; Department of Animal Life Science, Hankyong National University, Ansung, Kyeonggido, Korea.


The coat color of mammals is determined by the melanogenesis pathway, which is responsible for maintaining the balance between black-brown eumelanin and yellow-reddish pheomelanin. It is also believed that the color of the bovine muzzle is regulated in a similar manner; however, the molecular mechanism underlying pigment deposition in the dark-muzzle has yet to be elucidated. The aim of the present study was to identify melanogenesis-associated genes that are differentially expressed in the dark vs. light muzzle of native Korean cows. Using microarray clustering and real-time polymerase chain reaction techniques, we observed that the expression of genes involved in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Wnt signaling pathways is distinctively regulated in the dark and light muzzle tissues. Differential expression of tyrosinase was also noticed, although the difference was not as distinct as those of MAPK and Wnt. We hypothesize that emphasis on the MAPK pathway in the dark-muzzle induces eumelanin synthesis through the activation of cAMP response element-binding protein and tyrosinase, while activation of Wnt signaling counteracts this process and raises the amount of pheomelanin in the light-muzzle. We also found 2 novel genes (GenBank No. NM-001076026 and XM-588439) with increase expression in the black nose, which may provide additional information about the mechanism of nose pigmentation. Regarding the increasing interest in the genetic diversity of cattle stocks, genes we identified for differential expression in the dark vs. light muzzle may serve as novel markers for genetic diversity among cows based on the muzzle color phenotype.

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