Investigation of prolific sheep from UK and Ireland for evidence on origin of the mutations in BMP15 (FecXG, FecXB) and GDF9 (FecGH) in Belclare and Cambridge sheep.
Mullen, Michael P.
Hanrahan, James P.
Howard, Dawn J.
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This paper concerns the likely origin of three mutations with large effects on ovulation rate identified in the Belclare and Cambridge sheep breeds; two in the BMP15 gene (FecXG and FecXB) and the third (FecGH) in GDF9. All three mutations segregate in Belclare sheep while one, FecXB, has not been found in the Cambridge. Both Belclare and Cambridge breeds are relatively recently developed composites that have common ancestry through the use of genetic material from the Finnish Landrace and Lleyn breeds. The development of both composites also involved major contributions from exceptionally prolific ewes screened from flocks in Ireland (Belclare) and Britain (Cambridge) during the 1960s. The objective of the current study was to establish the likely origin of the mutations (FecXG, FecXB and FecGH) through analysis of DNA from Finnish Landrace and Lleyn sheep, and Galway and Texel breeds which contributed to the development of the Belclare breed. Ewes with exceptionally high prolificacy (hyper-prolific ewes) in current flocks on Irish farms were identified to simulate the screening of ewes from Irish flocks in the 1960s. DNA was obtained from: prolific ewes in extant flocks of Lleyn sheep (n = 44) on the Lleyn peninsula in Wales; hyper-prolific ewes (n = 41); prolific Galway (n = 41) ewes; Finnish Landrace (n = 124) and Texel (n = 19) ewes. The FecXG mutation was identified in Lleyn but not in Finnish Landrace, Galway or Texel sheep; FecXB was only found among the hyper-prolific ewes. The FecGH mutation was identified in the sample of Lleyn sheep. It was concluded from these findings that the Lleyn breed was the most likely source of the FecXG and FecGH mutations in Belclare and Cambridge sheep and that the FecXB mutation came from the High Fertility line that was developed using prolific ewes selected from commercial flocks in Ireland in the 19609s and subsequently used in the genesis of the Belclare.
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