Reduced Abundance and Subverted Functions of Proteins in Prion-Like Diseases: Gained Functions Fascinate but Lost Functions Affect Aetiology
Dominant white, Dun, and Smoky are alleles at the Dominant white locus, which is one of the major loci affecting plumage color in the domestic chicken. Both Dominant white and Dun inhibit the expression of black eumelanin. Smoky arose in a White Leghorn homozygous for Dominant white and partially restores pigmentation. PMEL17 encodes a melanocyte-specific protein and was identified as a positional candidate gene due to its role in the development of eumelanosomes. Linkage analysis of PMEL17 and Dominant white using a red jungle fowl/White Leghorn intercross revealed no recombination between these loci. Sequence analysis showed that the Dominant white allele was exclusively associated with a 9-bp insertion in exon 10, leading to an insertion of three amino acids in the PMEL17 transmembrane region. Similarly, a deletion of five amino acids in the transmembrane region occurs in the protein encoded by Dun. The Smoky allele shared the 9-bp insertion in exon 10 with Dominant white, as expected from its origin, but also had a deletion of 12 nucleotides in exon 6, eliminating four amino acids from the mature protein. These mutations are, together with the recessive silver mutation in the mouse, the only PMEL17 mutations with phenotypic effects that have been described so far in any species.