The Booroola fecundity gene (FecB) increases ovulation rate and litter size in sheep and is inherited as a single autosomal locus. The effect of FecB is additive for ovulation rate (increasing by about 1.6 corpora lutea per cycle for each copy) and has been mapped to sheep chromosome 6q23–31, which is syntenic to human chromosome 4q21–25. Bone morphogenetic protein IB (BMP-IB) receptor (also known as ALK-6), which binds members of the transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) superfamily, is located in the region containing the FecB locus. Booroola sheep have a mutation (Q249R) in the highly conserved intracellular kinase signaling domain of the BMP-IB receptor. The mutation segregated with the FecB phenotype in the Booroola backcross and half-sib flocks of sheep with no recombinants. The mutation was not found in individuals from a number of sheep breeds not derived from the Booroola strain. BMPR-IB was expressed in the ovary and in situ hybridization revealed its specific location to the oocyte and the granulosa cell. Expression of mRNA encoding the BMP type II receptor was widespread throughout the ovary. The mutation in BMPR-IB found in Booroola sheep is the second reported defect in a gene from the TGF-β pathway affecting fertility in sheep following the recent discovery of mutations in the growth factor, GDF9b/BMP15.
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