The 'silver' Japanese quail and the MITF gene: causal mutation, associated traits and homology with the 'blue' chicken plumage

Minvielle, Francis; Bed'hom, Bertrand; Coville, Jean-Luc; Ito, Shińichi; Inoue-Murayama, Miho; Gourichon, David
January 2010
BMC Genetics;2010, Vol. 11, p15
Academic Journal
Background: The MITF (microphthalmia-associated transcription factor) gene has been investigated in mice and various vertebrates but its variations and associated effects have not yet been explored much in birds. The present study describes the causal mutation B at the MITF gene responsible for the "silver" plumage colour in the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), and its associated effects on growth and body composition, and tests its allelism with the "blue" plumage colour mutation Bl in Gallus gallus. Results: The semi dominant B mutation results from a premature stop codon caused by a 2 bp deletion in exon 11 of MITF. Homozygous "white" (B/B) quail which have a white plumage also show a slightly lower growth, lower body temperature, smaller heart, and lighter pectoralis muscles but more abdominal adipose tissue than the recessive homozygous "wild-type" (+/+) and heterozygous "silver" (B/+) quail. Similar observations on cardiac and body growth were made on mice (Mus musculus) homozygous for mutations at MITF. The production of chickenquail hybrids with a white plumage obtained by crossing Bl/+ chicken heterozygous for the blue mutation with B/B white quail indicated that the mutations were allelic. Conclusion: The "silver" Japanese quail is an interesting model for the comparative study of the effects of MITF in birds and mammals. Further investigation using a chicken family segregating for the "blue" plumage and molecular data will be needed to confirm if the "blue" plumage in chicken results from a mutation in MITF.


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