Associations of PrP genotype with lamb production traits in three commercial breeds of British lowland sheep

R.C. Moore, Kay Boulton, S.C. Bishop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Ram Genotyping Scheme was launched in Great Britain in 2001 as part of the National Scrapie Plan and was devised to reduce and eventually eradicate classical scrapie susceptible genotypes from the national pedigree flock. Anecdotal claims from breeders suggest that sheep with more resistant PrP genotypes may have inferior phenotypes. In this study, we test this possibility for lamb production traits in three breeds of lowland sheep: Charollais (22 752 lambs), Poll Dorset (22 589 lambs) and Texel (23 492 lambs). Data were received from 50 breeders and comprised weights at birth, 8 weeks and scanning (from which average daily weight gain was derived), and ultrasonic muscle and fat depths. Animal (direct) genetic effects and up to three maternal effects were fitted in linear mixed models for each trait. Fitting either PrP genotype or number of copies of individual alleles carried as fixed effects allowed potential associations with the PrP gene to be assessed There were no significant associations seen in the Poll Dorset breed; however, significant associations were found with the number of allele copies carried in the other two breeds included in this study. Charollais lambs carrying one copy of the VRQ allele had significantly (P <0.01) greater ultrasonic muscle depth (0.58 mm) and fat depth (0.2 mm) than non-carriers. In the Texel breed, lambs with one ARR allele were significantly heavier than those with two or zero ARR alleles; heterozygous ARR lambs were 0.07 kg heavier at birth (P <0.05), 0.42 kg heavier at 8 weeks (P <0.01) and 0.17 kg heavier at scan weight (P <0.01), than non-carriers. After Bonferroni corrections to adjust significance thresholds to account for the large number of independent comparisons made, all significant results remained so at P <0.05 or greater, except for the ARR allele effect on birth weight in the Texel breed, which was no longer significant. These results compare favourably with others from studies on many continental breeds of sheep, published in recent years, and add credence to the conclusion that selection on PrP genotype is unlikely to have any noticeable impact on the measured growth and carcass traits in sheep
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1688-1695
Number of pages8
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • prion protein PrP Scrapie sheep transmissable spongiform encephalopathy

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