Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Characterisation of the melanocortin-1 receptor gene in alpaca and identification of possible markers associated with phenotypic variations in colour

N. L. Feeley A and K. A. Munyard A B

A School of Biomedical Sciences, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA 6845, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: k.munyard@exchange.curtin.edu.au

Animal Production Science 49(8) 675-681 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN09005
Submitted: 12 January 2009  Accepted: 28 April 2009   Published: 27 July 2009

Abstract

The aim of this study was to determine if any correlation exists between melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) polymorphisms and skin and fibre colour in alpacas. Primers capable of amplifying the entire alpaca MC1R gene were designed from a comparative alignment of Bos taurus and Mus musculus MC1R gene sequences. The complete MC1R gene of 41 alpacas exhibiting a range of fibre colours, and which were sourced from farms across Australia, was sequenced from PCR products. Twenty-one single nucleotide polymorphisms were identified within MC1R. Two of these polymorphisms (A82G and C901T) have the potential to reduce eumelanin production by disrupting the activity of MC1R. No agreement was observed between fibre colour alone and MC1R genotype in the 41 animals in this study. However, when the animals were assigned to groups based on the presence or absence of eumelanin in their fibre and skin, only animals that had at least one allele with the A82/C901 combination expressed eumelanin. We propose that A82/C901 is the wild-type dominant ‘EMC1R allele, while alpacas with either G82/T901 or G82/Y901 are homozygous for the recessive ‘eMC1R allele and are therefore unable to produce eumelanin.

Additional keywords: melanin, pigmentation, single nucleotide polymorphism.


Acknowledgements

The authors thank the following alpaca breeders for supplying samples from their alpacas, without them this research would not have been possible: Sue Leitch (Brookwood Alpacas), Carolyn Emery (Windella Alpacas), Pinjarra Alpacas, Aviana Farms, Bolero Alpacas, Mangowood Farm, and Tularosa Alpacas. Thanks also to the Australian Alpaca Association for their strong in-kind support of this research. Dr Katherine Morton (Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney) kindly provided some of the samples used in this study, and Dr Belinda Appleton (Department of Genetics, The University of Melbourne/Alpaca Genomics Australia), supplied DNA samples for nine of the animals. This research was jointly funded by the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation and Curtin University. Finally, thanks to Elizabeth Paul (Erehwon Alpacas) for many hours of stimulating colour genetics discussions.


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