Wool and hair fibres consist of a variety of proteins, including the keratin-associated proteins (KAPs). In this study, a putative ovine homologue of the human KAP21-2 gene (KRTAP21-2) was identified. It was located on chromosome 1 as a 201-bp open reading frame (ORF) in the ovine genome assembly from a Texel sheep (v.4 NC_019458.2: nt122932727 to 122932927). A polymerase chain reaction- single strand conformation polymorphism (PCR-SSCP) analysis of this ORF, and subsequent DNA sequencing, identified five sequences (named A-E). The putative amino acid sequences that would be produced, shared some identity with each other and with other KAPs, but they were most similar to ovine KAP21-1, and phylogenetically related to human KAP21-2. The location of the ovine KRTAP21-2 sequence was consistent with the location of human KRTAP21-2, and this suggests they represent different variant forms of ovine KRTAP21-2. Variation in this gene was investigated in 389 Merino (sire) × Southdown-cross (ewe) lambs. These were derived from four independent sire-lines. The sequence variation was found to be associated with variation in five wool traits: including mean staple length (MSL), mean fibre diameter (MFD), fibre diameter standard deviation (FDSD), prickle factor (PF), and greasy fleece weight (GFW). The most persistent effect of KRTAP21-2 variation was with variation in MSL; with the MSL of sheep of genotype AC being 12.5% greater than those of genotype CE. A similar effect was observed from individual variant absence/presence models. This suggests that KRTAP21-2 should be further investigated as a possible gene-marker for improving MSL.
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