A new allele in the BMP15 gene (FecXRA) that affects prolificacy co-segregates with FecXR and FecXGR in Rasa aragonesa sheep.
A FecX-mutated allele called FecXR in the BMP15 gene has been described in Rasa aragonesa sheep. FecXR causes increased prolificacy when heterozygous and sterility when homozygous in ewes. However, highly prolific ewes without the FecXR allele have been found in this breed. Therefore, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed in 158 ewes (tail H: N = 73, mean prolificacy ± standard deviation = 2.14 ± 0.26; tail L: N = 85, mean prolificacy = 1.06 ± 0.08) with the Ovine HD SNP BeadChip. In this analysis, the FecXGR allele was found to have genome-wide significance associated with prolificacy, first described in the Grivette sheep breed. We also identified a novel polymorphism in exon 2 of BMP15 in 9 high prolific ewes by Sanger sequencing. This new mutation, called FecXRA, is a SNP (Oar3.1_X: g. 50970948C > T; NM_001114767.1: c.1172C > T) that produces an amino acid substitution (ENSOART00000010201: p.T400I) that is predicted to be deleterious and to alter the predicted secondary structure of the mature protein. To confirm if this SNP had any the effect on prolificacy, we genotyped sires with known EBVs (Estimated Breeding Values), finding one hemizygous sire for the FecXRA allele with the highest EBV in the breeding program (effect on litter size at + 0.39 lamb per lambing). A very low frequency, ranging from 0.13 to 2%, was found for the FecXGR and FecXRA alleles in 3428 animals belonging to four different flocks. Finally, an association study was performed to validate and quantify the effects of the FecXGR and FecXRA alleles. Significant increased prolificacy of 0.52 ± 0.05, 0.42 ± 0.05 and 0.32 ± 0.01 were found when comparing FecXGR, FecXRA and FecXR heterozygous ewes to wild type homozygous ones. These effects are of the same order of magnitude as the effect of most of other known major genes for prolificacy. Only significant differences between FecXGR and FecXR were found among the three alleles associated with increased prolificacy. However, we cannot confirm the effect of the FecXRA allele at homozygous state because we did not find any homozygous ewes. These results confirm that these three alleles in the BMP15 gene that affect prolificacy co-segregate in Rasa aragonesa sheep.