Expression of seasonality in Merinos d’Arles ewes of different genotypes at the MT1 melatonin receptor gene
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 September 2010
Spontaneous ovulatory activity (SOA) in spring has been used to study the out-of-season breeding ability of Merinos d’Arles (MA) ewes. Within this breed, an association was found between more intense seasonality and genotype −/− at a MnlI restriction site (allele − for its absence v. + for its presence) in Exon II of the MT1 receptor gene. This study was designed to ascertain whether this association results in a direct effect of the MT1 genotype on the expression of seasonality in MA ewes. In the first year of the study, genotyping of 314 MA ewes at locus MnlI was carried out and resulted in frequencies of 43.0%, 44.9% and 12.1% for genotypes +/+, +/− and −/−, respectively. The SOA of these ewes was determined in early April of two consecutive years by assaying plasma progesterone concentrations in two blood samples taken 9 days apart. Groups of 30 ewes of each homozygous genotype (+/+ and −/−) were identified from this population and their SOA was followed by taking blood samples at regular intervals between January and mid-April of the second and third year of the study. In the second year, groups of ewes were managed together on rangelands, whereas in the third year each group was split into two subgroups given differential feed levels. The results clearly showed that genotype had no significant effect on SOA during the 2- to 3-month period preceding the introduction of rams for spring mating. In the second year of the study, in which the experimental procedure allowed a fair comparison of the fertility of ewes in spring mating, fertility was similar for both genotypes. The reciprocity of the association was not demonstrated and the MnlI polymorphic site could not be used as a genetic marker of selection for out-of-season breeding ability, at least not in the MA breed. The percentage of cycling ewes significantly decreased between January and April, and older ewes (5 or 6 years old depending on the year of the study) were more cyclic than younger ones (2 and 3 years old, respectively). The differential feeding level of ewes from early February did not significantly affect their SOA during the time period studied in the third year of the study.
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