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Open Access Research article

The scurs inheritance: new insights from the French Charolais breed

Aurélien Capitan12, Cécile Grohs1, Mathieu Gautier1 and André Eggen1*

Author affiliations

1 INRA, UMR 1313 Génétique Animale et Biologie Intégrative, F-78350 Jouy-en-Josas, France

2 AgroParisTech, UMR 1313 Génétique Animale et Biologie Intégrative, F-75231 Paris 05, France

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Citation and License

BMC Genetics 2009, 10:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-33

Published: 6 July 2009

Abstract

Background

Polled animals are valued in cattle industry because the absence of horns has a significant economic impact. However, some cattle are neither polled nor horned but have so-called scurs on their heads, which are corneous growths loosely attached to the skull. A better understanding of the genetic determinism of the scurs phenotype would help to fine map the polled locus. To date, only one study has attempted to map the scurs locus in cattle. Here, we have investigated the inheritance of the scurs phenotype in the French Charolais breed and examined whether the previously proposed localisation of the scurs locus on bovine chromosome 19 could be confirmed or not.

Results

Our results indicate that the inheritance pattern of the scurs phenotype in the French Charolais breed is autosomal recessive with complete penetrance in both sexes, which is different from what is reported for other breeds. The frequency of the scurs allele (Sc) reaches 69.9% in the French Charolais population. Eleven microsatellite markers on bovine chromosome 19 were genotyped in 267 offspring (33 half-sib and full-sib families). Both non-parametric and parametric linkage analyses suggest that in the French Charolais population the scurs locus may not map to the previously identified region. A new analysis of an Angus-Hereford and Hereford-Hereford pedigree published in 1978 enabled us to calculate the frequency of the Sc allele in the Hereford breed (89.4%) and to study the penetrance of this allele in males heterozygous for both polled and scurs loci (40%). This led us to revise the inheritance pattern of the scurs phenotype proposed for the Hereford breed and to suggest that allele Sc is not fully but partially dominant in double heterozygous males while it is always recessive in females. Crossbreeding involving the Charolais breed and other breeds gave results similar to those reported in the Hereford breed.

Conclusion

Our results suggest the existence of unknown genetics factors modifying the expression of the scurs locus in double heterozygous Hereford and Angus males. The specific inheritance pattern of the scurs locus in the French Charolais breed represents an opportunity to map this gene and to identify the molecular mechanisms regulating the growth of horns in cattle.