A new autosomal recessive coat color mutant in the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is described: recessive yellow. On the dorsal side the mutant has a rich yellow to ginger color. Ventrally it shows the typical creamy white belly of a wild-type Mongolian gerbil. The dorsal yellow hairs have short black tips, and a light olive green base. A clear demarcation line between dorsal and ventral color is present. Crosses between recessive yellow animals and multiple homozygous recessive tester animals (a/a; cchm/cchm; g/g; p/p) resulted only in animals of an agouti (wild-type) phenotype, showing that the new allele is not allelic with any of the known coat color mutations in the Mongolian gerbil. Molecular studies showed that the new mutant is caused by a missence mutation at the extension (E) locus. On a non-agouti background (a/a; e/e) mutant animals look like a dark wild-type agouti. In contrast to wild-type agouti it shows yellow pigmentation and dark ticking at the ventral side, resulting in the absence of a demarcation line. Since black pigment is present in both the agouti and non-agouti variant (A/A; e/e and a/a; e/e), we conclude that recessive yellow in the Mongolian gerbil is non-epistatic to agouti. Additionally we describe a second mutation at the same locus leading to a similar phenotype, however without black pigment and diminishing yellow pigment during life. Fertility and viability of both new mutants are within normal range. The extension (E) gene is known to encode the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R). Interestingly, this is the only gene that is known to account for substantial variation in skin and hair color in humans. Many different mutations are known of which some are associated with higher skin cancer incidence.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.jeas.2006.09.006, hdl.handle.net/1765/36504
Journal of Experimental Animal Science
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Petrij, F., Mettler, M., Brückmann, V., & van Veen, K. (2007). Recessive yellow in the Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus). Journal of Experimental Animal Science, 43(4), 319–327. doi:10.1016/j.jeas.2006.09.006