New genetic phenomenon discovered in Witrik cattle

February 14, 2012
a picture of the Witrik cattle

By studying the DNA of Witrik, colour sided or lineback, cattle from various countries, scientists from the University of Liege have discovered that pieces of DNA move from one chromosome to another in a circle. This phenomenon had never before been identified in mammals. The research results were published in the scientific magazine Nature in early February.

Witrik are characterised by the white stripe on their backs, a marking that occurs in various . Within the original Fries-Hollands (Dutch-Friesian) and Maas-Rijn-IJssel (Meuse Rhine Yssel) cattle this colouration has been preserved by a small number of breeders. In addition to the Netherlands, the Witrik occurs in Belgium in the Belgische Blauwe (Belgian White- Blue) and in Switzerland in the Brown Swiss (Braunvieh) breeds.

Scientists from various countries, including the Netherlands, collected DNA from Witrik cattle. In close cooperation with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (Stichting Zeldzame Huisdierrassen), the Centre for , part of Wageningen UR, the Netherlands collected DNA from a Witrik cattle family belonging to Dutch breeding farm Van der Veen.

Scientists from the Unit of Animal Genomics run by Michel Georges at the University of Liege have discovered that a piece of formed a circle and then translocated to chromosome 29. Before the piece was built into chromosome 29 it broke open in another part of the circle. Whenever this circle is present on one of the two chromosomes nr 29, the Belgische Blauwe (Belgian White-Blue) and Dutch spotted animals develop the Witrik pattern. If the circle is built into both 29 for the Witrik allele, the animal is almost completely white.

It was previously assumed that the Witrik pattern in cattle was the result of the effect of a gene on chromosome 6. When an animal had been given the spotted allele from one parent and the Witrik allele from the other, it was assumed that the heterozygote had the Witrik pattern.

The discovery will not lead to major changes for Witrik breeders, but finding the movement of pieces of DNA from one to another chromosome is an inspiration for scientists who study the genome of people and animals. It is interesting to find out whether the phenomenon also occurs in other mammals and whether it may cause genetic diseases. The research also shows the value of carefully preserving original breeds and colour patterns, including for genetic research.

Explore further: Canine genome sequence is completed

More information: The article in Nature is available via the following link: www.nature.com/nature/journal/v482/n7383/full/nature10757.html

Related Stories

Big cattle -- the genes that determine carcass weight

August 4, 2009

An area of chromosome 6 that affects cattle carcass weight has been identified using two different Japanese species. Knowledge of this four-gene region, described in the open access journal BMC Genetics, should be useful ...

ARS Gene Collections Vital to Animal Research Efforts

January 14, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- When the National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) opened its doors a decade ago, it started out with genetic material from 40 lines of chicken. Today, the center operated by the Agricultural Research Service ...

Not the black sheep of domestic animals

February 7, 2012

Mapping the ancestry of sheep over the past 11,000 years has revealed that our woolly friends are stars among domestic animals, boasting vast genetic diversity and substantial prospects for continued breeding to further boost ...

Recommended for you

Genomes uncover life's early history

August 24, 2015

A University of Manchester scientist is part of a team which has carried out one of the biggest ever analyses of genomes on life of all forms.

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

August 25, 2015

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn't seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers ...

Study shows female frogs susceptible to 'decoy effect'

August 28, 2015

(Phys.org)—A pair of researchers has found that female túngaras, frogs that live in parts of Mexico and Central and South America, appear to be susceptible to the "decoy effect." In their paper published in the journal ...

Why a mutant rice called Big Grain1 yields such big grains

August 24, 2015

(Phys.org)—Rice is one of the most important staple crops grown by humans—very possibly the most important in history. With 4.3 billion inhabitants, Asia is home to 60 percent of the world's population, so it's unsurprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.