Accumulating Mutations in Series of Haplotypes at the KIT and MITF Loci Are Major Determinants of White Markings in Franches-Montagnes Horses

Bianca Haase, Heidi Signer-Hasler, Matthew M. Binns, Gabriela Obexer-Ruff, Regula Hauswirth, Rebecca Bellone, Dominik Burger, Stefan Rieder, Claire M. Wade, Tosso Leeb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Coat color and pattern variations in domestic animals are frequently inherited as simple monogenic traits, but a number are known to have a complex genetic basis. While the analysis of complex trait data remains a challenge in all species, we can use the reduced haplotypic diversity in domestic animal populations to gain insight into the genomic interactions underlying complex phenotypes. White face and leg markings are examples of complex traits in horses where little is known of the underlying genetics. In this study, Franches-Montagnes (FM) horses were scored for the occurrence of white facial and leg markings using a standardized scoring system. A genome-wide association study (GWAS) was performed for several white patterning traits in 1,077 FM horses. Seven quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting the white marking score with p-values p≤10-4 were identified. Three loci, MC1R and the known white spotting genes, KIT and MITF, were identified as the major loci underlying the extent of white patterning in this breed. Together, the seven loci explain 54% of the genetic variance in total white marking score, while MITF and KIT alone account for 26%. Although MITF and KIT are the major loci controlling white patterning, their influence varies according to the basic coat color of the horse and the specific body location of the white patterning. Fine mapping across the MITF and KIT loci was used to characterize haplotypes present. Phylogenetic relationships among haplotypes were calculated to assess their selective and evolutionary influences on the extent of white patterning. This novel approach shows that KIT and MITF act in an additive manner and that accumulating mutations at these loci progressively increase the extent of white markings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere75071
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 30 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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