Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2005. 83:455–459


Scrapie is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies of livestock. Disease susceptibility is linked to polymorphisms in the normal prion protein gene that encodes the mammalian prion precursor. Codon 171 of this gene is a major determinant of scrapie susceptibility. Selection for arginine (R) at codon 171 is encouraged by the USDA to decrease the incidence of scrapie. Objectives of this study were to determine the frequency of R allele variants at codon 171 in a sample of sheep from five breeds (Columbia, Hampshire, Rambouillet, Suffolk, and Targhee) and western white-faced commercial ewes and to determine whether the R allele is associated with ewe and lamb production traits. Genotyping was performed on 532 ewes and 901 lambs from the University of Wyoming flock, in addition to 820 rams from 52 sheep producers from Wyoming and surrounding areas, using a DNA mismatch assay that discriminated the R allele from others at codon 171. Genotyping was performed byDNA sequencing on 127 rams representing all breeds, except Hampshire from the USDA Sheep Experiment Station at Dubois, ID. The 171R allele was found in all five breeds and in the commercial western white-faced ewes. Genotype frequencies varied (P < 0.001) by breed in ewe and ram populations. Influence of R-allele frequency on ewe lambing records and individual lamb records was analyzed for Columbia (62, 161, 121), Hampshire (89, 193, 162), Rambouillet (87, 179, 133), Suffolk (67, 178, 161), and commercial sheep (227, 463, 324) for numbers of ewes, total number of ewe production records, and individual lamb records, respectively. Suffolk ewes without the R allele (non-R/non-R) gave birth to more (P ≤ 0.005) multiple lambs than heterozygous non-R/R ewes. Homozygous non-R/non-R Suffolk ewes weaned lighter (P = 0.02) individual lambs but more (P = 0.03) total weight of lamb than heterozygous non-R/R ewes. Although ewes genotyped homozygous non-R/non-R or heterozygous non-R/R at codon 171 from the commercial flock gave birth to more (P ≤ 0.002) multiple lambs than ewes genotyped R/R, differences were not detected (P = 0.14) in total weight of lamb weaned. Production traits of Columbia, Hampshire, and Rambouillet ewes did not differ (P ≥ 0.08) by ewe genotype. Lamb birth and weaning weights were not influenced (P ≥ 0.12) by lamb genotype in any of the breeds or in the commercial flock. In this population, ultimate lamb production was only influenced by genotype at codon 171 in the Suffolk flock.