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Differences between ultrastructure and protein composition in straight hair fibres

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 15:28 authored by Jeff PlowmanJeff Plowman, Duane HarlandDuane Harland, David Scobie, Denis O'Connell, Ancy ThomasAncy Thomas, Peter BrorensPeter Brorens, Marina RichenaMarina Richena, Esther MeenkenEsther Meenken, Amy Phillips, James Vernon, Stefan ClerensStefan Clerens
Mammalian hairs are internally patterned from both a morphological and proteomic perspective to exhibit specific functional traits, including curvature, which is important for coat structure affecting thermo-insulation. Most functional traits in mammalian coats are complex emergent phenomena associated with single-fibre properties that are themselves multi-variate and poorly understood. Here we compare hair curvature, ultrastructure, microstructure, protein composition and felting (a functional attribute) between fibres from natural straight-wool mutants of domestic sheep (felting lustre-mutant sheep), their wild-type relatives and also with a straight-haired semi-lustrous breed, English Leicester. Proteomic and structural results confirmed that the straight lustre mutant fibres had a normal cuticle and the same cortical protein and ultrastructural building blocks as wild-type fibres, but differed from equivalent fibres from wild-type relatives and English Leicester in layout and relative proportions. While curved wild-type fibres had bilaterally arranged orthocortex and paracortex, and English Leicester fibres had a scatter of paracortex on a background of orthocortex, lustre mutant fibres typically had a complete or partial ring of orthocortex surrounding a paracortex core, and sometimes a central orthocortex (similar to straight human and goat hairs). Lustre mutant fibres also had a reduced abundance of some high glycine-tyrosine proteins, normally associated with the orthocortex, with a possible relationship between the protein expression of the KAP8 and KAP16 protein families and fibre felting properties. We conclude that through control of the internal fibre patterning, multiple-solutions to hair curvature are possible, and variation may affect mechanical phenotype differently. Felting lustre mutant sheep will be a useful tool for discriminating cause and effect from non-causative correlation in mammalian fibre development.


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Plowman, J. E., Harland, D. P., Scobie, D. R., O’Connell, D., Thomas, A., Brorens, P. H., … Clerens, S. (2019). Differences between ultrastructure and protein composition in straight hair fibres. Zoology, 133, 40–53. doi:10.1016/j.zool.2019.01.002

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