A Finnish research scientist has mapped a defective gene that causes infertility in pigs.
Anu Sironen of MTT Agrifood Research Finland mapped the defective gene in her doctoral research, called “Molecular genetics of the immotile short tail sperm defect”.
Sequence analysis of the candidate gene KPL2 revealed the presence of an inserted retrotransposon, a DNA sequence which moves around independently in the host genome. These transposable elements are found in all plants and animals.
The genome caused havoc in the late 1990s as the Finnish Yorkshire pig population was threatened by a genetic defect which spread at an alarming rate and led to infertility. The defective KPL2 gene in porcine chromosome 16 caused pig spermatozoa to be short-tailed and immotile. The recessive genetic defect did not cause any other symptoms in the pigs.
Sironen also developed an accurate DNA test which can be used to identify animals carrying the defective gene with 100% certainty. The method, based on PCR technology, multiplies part of the KPL2 gene and detects the retrotransposon if it is present.
The test has been used as a tool in Finnish pig breeding since 2006.
MTT Agrifood Research Finland