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Holstein Friesian dairy cattle edited for diluted coat color as a potential adaptation to climate change

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posted on 2023-05-03, 22:15 authored by Goetz LaibleGoetz Laible, Sally-Anne Cole, Brigid BrophyBrigid Brophy, Jingwei WeiJingwei Wei, Shane LeathShane Leath, Swati Jivanji, Mathew Littlejohn, David WellsDavid Wells
Background High-producing Holstein Friesian dairy cattle have a characteristic black and white coat, often with large proportions of black. Compared to a light coat color, black absorbs more solar radiation which is a contributing factor to heat stress in cattle. To better adapt dairy cattle to rapidly warming climates, we aimed to lighten their coat color by genome editing. Results Using gRNA/Cas9-mediated editing, we introduced a three bp deletion in the pre-melanosomal protein 17 gene (PMEL) proposed as causative variant for the semi-dominant color dilution phenotype observed in Galloway and Highland cattle. Calves generated from cells with homozygous edits revealed a strong color dilution effect. Instead of the characteristic black and white markings of control calves generated from unedited cells, the edited calves displayed a novel grey and white coat pattern. Conclusion This, for the first time, verified the causative nature of the PMEL mutation for diluting the black coat color in cattle. Although only one of the calves was healthy at birth and later succumbed to a naval infection, the study showed the feasibility of generating such edited animals with the possibility to dissect the effects of the introgressed edit and other interfering allelic variants that might exist in individual cattle and accurately determine the impact of only the three bp change.


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© The Author(s) 2021. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.


  • English

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Springer Nature

Journal title

BMC Genomics




Laible, G., Cole, S.-A., Brophy, B., Wei, J., Leath, S., Jivanji, S., Littlejohn, M. D., & Wells, D. N. (2021). Holstein Friesian dairy cattle edited for diluted coat color as a potential adaptation to climate change. BMC Genomics, 22, 856.