Characterization and expression analysis of KIT and MITF-M genes in llamas and their relation to white coat color

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The llama (Lama glama) is a fiber-producing species that presents a wide range of coat colors, among which white is one of the most important for the textile industry. However, there is little information about the molecular mechanisms that control the white phenotype in this species. In domestic mammals, a white coat is usually produced by mutations in the KIT proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (KIT) and microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF) genes. In this work we have sequenced and described the coding regions of KIT and MITF-M, the melanocyte-specific isoform, and the two transcriptional variants MITF-M( ) and MITF-M(+). Moreover, we studied the expression of these genes in the skin of white and colored llamas. Although no variants were revealed to be associated with white coat color, significant differences between phenotypes were observed in the expression levels of KIT and MITF-M. Interestingly, white llamas expressed less MITF-M(+) than did colored ones, which is consistent with a consequent reduction in the synthesis of melanin. Even though our results indicate that downregulation of KIT and MITF-M expression is involved in white phenotype production in llamas, the causative gene of white coat color remains unknown.

Palabras clave
Coat color
Melanogenesis genes
Splice variants

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