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The genetics of the white horse unraveled
Date:7/20/2008

also predisposes for development of melanoma. About 75% of Grey horses older than 15 years of age have a benign form of melanoma that in some cases develops into a malignant melanoma. Thus, the study reported today has also given new insight in a molecular pathway that may lead to tumour development.

We propose that the Grey mutation stimulates growth of melanocytes and that this leads to a premature loss of the melanocyte stem cells needed for hair pigmentation whereas the mutation promotes an expansion of some of the melanocytes causing skin pigmentation, says Leif Andersson.

Domestic animals constitute extraordinary models for evolution of biological diversity as already recognized by Charles Darwin. The white horse is a beautiful illustration of the importance of regulatory mutations as a major underlying mechanism for phenotypic diversity within and between species. The Grey mutation does not change any protein structure but it affects the genetic regulation of two genes. The researchers found that the white horses carry an extra copy of a DNA segment located in one of these genes.

It is very likely that regulatory mutations like the one we found in these white horses constitute the dominating class of mutations explaining differences between breeds of domestic animals as well as between species like humans and chimpanzee, concludes Leif Andersson.


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Contact: Leif Andersson
leif.andersson@imbim.uu.se
46-070-514-490
Uppsala University
Source:Eurekalert

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