Analysis of genetic variants for different horn phenotypes and their inheritance in Icelandic sheep

Simon, Rebecca; Elísabetardóttir, Karólína; Lühken, Gesine

Icelandic sheep are characterized by a great diversity in horn phenotypes. Within their breed, they show a variability in terms of this trait to an extent rarely observed elsewhere. Previously, several genetic variants were published as markers for horn status (in terms of absence or presence of horns, including scurs) and horn traits (e.g., oval horns, horn length and polyceraty). The aim of this study was to genotype, for the first time, five of these genetic variants in Icelandic sheep with different horn phenotypes, as well as to analyze their inheritance. Phenotypic and pedigree data, as well as DNA samples from two Icelandic sheep farms, were used. Genetic variants were genotyped by published PCR-based methods in all samples (inline-formulan=94) or in subsets. As in other sheep breeds with variable horn status, the inheritance of the presence or absence of horns was shown to be complex in Icelandic sheep, especially when sheep carry anything other than regularly formed horns. The 1.78 kb sized RXFP2 insertion on ovine chromosome 10 previously described to be associated with polledness in several sheep breeds was also found to be present in Icelandic sheep and showed some association but not a perfect segregation with the individuals' horn statuses. Missing associations were especially seen in sheep with scurs and oval horns. Regarding horn shape, there was no agreement with the studied variants described in Chinese breeds having comparable horn traits. However, matching tendencies were seen for the horn size variant that was found in the same study. All sheep with four or more horns carried the already published 4 bp deletion in HOXD1, as previously described for three other sheep breeds. Interestingly, for the first time, the deletion was also detected in phenotypically polled animals originating from multi-horned families. According to the results from animals genotyped simultaneously for the RXFP2 and the HOXD1 variants, polledness in sheep with a genetic disposition for polyceraty seems not to be controlled by the RXFP2 insertion. However, this and all other findings in Icelandic sheep need to be confirmed by analyzing a higher number of well-phenotyped animals.

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Simon, Rebecca / Elísabetardóttir, Karólína / Lühken, Gesine: Analysis of genetic variants for different horn phenotypes and their inheritance in Icelandic sheep. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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