Pleiotropic effects of pigmentation genes in horses


R. R. Bellone, Department of Biology, University of Tampa, 401 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33606, USA.


Horses are valued for the beauty and variety of colouration and coat patterning. To date, eleven different genes have been characterized that contribute to the variation observed in the horse. Unfortunately, mutations involving pigmentation often lead to deleterious effects in other systems, some of which have been described in the horse. This review focuses on six such pleiotropic effects or associations with pigmentation genes. These include neurological defects (lethal white foal syndrome and lavender foal syndrome), hearing defects, eye disorders (congenital stationary night blindness and multiple congenital ocular anomalies), as well as horse-specific melanoma. The pigmentation phenotype, disorder phenotype, mode of inheritance, genetic or genomic methods utilized to identify the genes involved and, if known, the causative mutations, molecular interactions and other susceptibility loci are discussed. As our understanding of pigmentation in the horse increases, through the use of novel genomic tools, we are likely to unravel yet unknown pleiotropic effects and determine additional interactions between previously discovered loci.