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SPARK Award contributes to better understanding of genetic factors controlling wool shedding in sheep

A Biosciences KTN SPARK Award has funded a recently published piece of research on the genetic factors controlling wool shedding in “easy care” sheep.

With the increasing costs of labour, and the decreased market value of wool, there has been renewed interest in “Easycare” sheep. Genetic traits which cause sheep to naturally shed their coats have become desirable.

In this study, the researchers used wool shedding scores (0 = retains full fleece, 9 = sheds entire coat) from 565 pedigree Easycare sheep and DNA from 200 Easycare sheep of which 48 sheep represented extreme phenotypes. Heritability analysis, complex segregation analysis to test for a major gene hypothesis and a genome-wide association study to map regions in the genome affecting the trait were performed. This reveal strong genetic

control for wool shedding and demonstrated the possibility of a single putative dominant gene controlling this trait in sheep. Furthermore, four SNPs were identified that may be in partial linkage disequilibrium with gene(s) controlling shedding.

You can find out more about the Biosciences KTN’s SPARK Awards in our SPARK group by clicking here.

Journal reference: Matika, O., Bishop, S. C., Pong-Wong, R., Riggio, V. and Headon, D. J. (2013), Genetic factors controlling wool shedding in a composite Easycare sheep flock. Animal Genetics. doi: 10.1111/age.12070 

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