New genetic phenomenon discovered in Witrik cattle

Feb 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: Molecular feedback loop gives clues to how flowers drop their petals

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

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Big cattle -- the genes that determine carcass weight

Aug 04, 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 ...

Not the black sheep of domestic animals

Feb 07, 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 ...

ARS Gene Collections Vital to Animal Research Efforts

Jan 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 ...

Recommended for you

Living in the genetic comfort zone

7 hours ago

The information encoded in the DNA of an organism is not sufficient to determine the expression pattern of genes. This fact has been known even before the discovery of epigenetics, which refers to external ...

Better genes for better beans

13 hours ago

Some of the most underappreciated crops could soon become the most valuable tools in agriculture with new research from the Centre for Underutilised Crops at the University of Southampton. Coordinator Mark Chapman has created ...

Aggressive plant fungus threatens wheat production

13 hours ago

The spread of exotic and aggressive strains of a plant fungus is presenting a serious threat to wheat production in the UK, according to research published in Genome Biology. The research uses a new survei ...

A taxi ride to starch granules

14 hours ago

Plant scientists at ETH have discovered a specific protein that significantly influences the formation of starch in plant cells. The findings may be useful in the food and packaging industries.

Lager yeast ancestors were full of eastern promise

15 hours ago

There are few drinks as iconic as a 'pint of the black stuff'. It might, therefore, surprise beer connoisseurs to learn that the DNA of the all-important brewing yeast – the building blocks of the perfect Stout – is the ...

User comments : 0

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.