An important trait in sheep breeding is the number of lambs born (NLB) per ewe that survive to weaning, with the amount of meat produced per ewe, to a great extent being determined by litter size. Research suggests that Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) in the GDF9 gene (Growth differentiation factor-9) could lead to different number of lambs born per ewe, and thus GDF9 could be used to increase ewe performance and meat production. The overall aim of this research is to investigate whether there is GDF9 sequence variation in some common New Zealand sheep breeds, and if so, whether this variation is associated with variation in fecundity in different breeds of sheep. In the initial study, PCR-SSCP analysis revealed three GDF9 variants (A, B and C) with frequencies of 79.1%, 13.8% and 7.1% respectively and three genotypes AA, AB and AC with the frequency of 63.5%, 27.5% and 8.8%, respectively in 134 Finn and Finn × Texel-cross ewes. The heterozygote BB and CC genotypes were not observed in the sheep studied. The average litter size for AB genotypes in Finn and Finn × Texel cross ewes was 2.36 and 2.50, respectively and overall the litter size of heterozygous AB ewes was 0.7 higher than ewes without the B variant. The investigation is ongoing with the hope of finding functional variation in the more common NZ maternal breeds. Keywords: fertility, sheep, GDF9 gene, PCR-SSCP, variation

Hamed Amirpour Najafabadi, Jon Hickford, Huitong Zhou

Proceedings of the World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, Volume Electronic Poster Session - Biology - Reproduction 2, , 801, 2018
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