Agouti Gene Color Genetics

Are Polymorphisms in the non-coding regions of the agouti gene responsible for color variation in alpacas?

Principal investigator:

Kylie Munyard B.Sc (Hons), PhD
Senior Lecturer—Molecular Genetics
Curtin University, School of Biomedical Sciences
Perth, Western Australia

A large part of the appeal of alpacas and their fiber, and a significant part of the value of both, is in the wide range of colors that exist in the species. Currently the genetics of color in alpacas is poorly understood and so breeding for specific colors or patterns (or trying to avoid them) is difficult. The agouti gene in other mammalian species is a rich source of color variation, and so is a good candidate for color research in alpacas. This project aims to build on previous successful research and fully characterize the agouti gene from alpacas of different colors. For this project, researchers plan to selectively amplify a region surrounding and including the agouti gene and then use state of the art sequencing technology to determine the sequence of the DNA therein. The sequences of different colored alpacas can then be compared, and also compared with the same gene in other well studied species. Such a comparison will enable researchers to identify mutations that either cause or contribute to color variation in alpacas.