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Introduction: Melanism is well described in ruminant mammals, including deer. Melanism is expectedly rare in wild populations but remarkably prevalent in the white tailed deer population of central Texas. While many potential mutations could underlie the phenotype, for this population it is likely all share the same mutation. Among potential coding region mutations, the melanocortin 1 receptor is a prevalent source of melanism. The objective of this research was to determine whether we could discern single nucleotide polymorphisms in the melanocortin 1 receptor coding sequence correlated with melanism in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus texanus).
Methods: DNA was extracted from tissue obtained from wild-type and melanistic white-tailed deer. Primers designed based on an alignment of the genomic regions of the melanocortin 1 receptor genes for even-toed ungulates were used to amplify a segment of the coding sequence. The amplified product was bidirectionally sequenced and analyzed for the presence and nature of single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Results: Although several sites within the melanocortin 1 receptor gene were found to have single nucleotide polymorphisms, all implied synonymous substitutions, and none were significantly correlated with the incidence of melanism.
Conclusions: Mutations of the melanocortin 1 receptor gene’s coding sequence do not account for the incidence of melanism in melanistic deer from the population sampled.
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