Molecular genetics of coat colour variations in White Galloway and White Park cattle

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Abstract

White Galloway cattle exhibit three different white coat colour phenotypes, that is, well marked, strongly marked and mismarked. However, mating of individuals with the preferred well or strongly marked phenotype also results in offspring with the undesired mismarked and/or even fully black coat colour. To elucidate the genetic background of the coat colour variations in White Galloway cattle, we analysed four coat colour relevant genes: mast/stem cell growth factor receptor (KIT), KIT ligand (KITLG), melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) and tyrosinase (TYR). Here, we show that the coat colour variations in White Galloway cattle and White Park cattle are caused by a KIT gene (chromosome 6) duplication and aberrant insertion on chromosome 29 (Cs29) as recently described for colour-sided Belgian Blue. Homozygous (Cs29/Cs29) White Galloway cattle and White Park cattle exhibit the mismarked phenotype, whereas heterozygous (Cs29/wt29) individuals are either well or strongly marked. In contrast, fully black individuals are characterised by the wild-type chromosome 29. As known for other cattle breeds, mutations in the MC1R gene determine the red colouring. Our data suggest that the white coat colour variations in White Galloway cattle and White Park cattle are caused by a dose-dependent effect based on the ploidy of aberrant insertions and inheritance of the KIT gene on chromosome 29.

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