Genes Controlling Pigmentation

Characterization of the effect of Melanocortin 1 Receptor, a member of the hair color genetic locus, in alpaca (Lama pacos) fleece color differentiation

Principal investigators:

Aaron J. Powell, Michael J. Moss, Laurel Tegland Tree, Beverly L. Roeder, Carla L. Carleton, Emily Campbell, and David L. Kooyman,
Small Ruminant Research
Volume 79, Issues 2-3, October 2008, Pages 183-187


Little is known about the inheritance and influence of the fleece color gene Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R). Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) is a well-known gene responsible for red versus black fleece pigmentation and is hypothesized to be a candidate gene for variation in alpaca coloration patterns. Inheritance of red versus black pigmentation in the context of genetic mutation is well understood in many domesticated mammals. We characterized the MC1R gene in a population of multi-colored alpacas in order to better understand its effect on coat color in the alpaca. Our characterization of the alpaca MC1R gene revealed 11 mutations. Of these one is a 4 bp deletion, four are silent mutations and six are single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that alter the amino acid sequence (T28V, M87V, S126G, T128I, S196F, R301C). No mutation correlated completely with fleece color in alpacas at the MC1R locus. This may be due to the epistatic relationship of MC1R with other coat color genes especially agouti signaling protein (ASIP).