Genetic susceptibility to scrapie is associated with polymorphisms in three different codons of the ovine prion protein (PrP) gene (136, 154, 171). Studies of PrP genotypes linked to scrapie have revealed the resistance of homozygous PrPARR/PrPARR animals and the high risk of PrPvRQ/PrPvRQ and PrPvRQ/PrPARQ animals in scrapie-affected flocks. The selection of PrPAR/PrPAR genotypes may therefore provide a strategy for controlling clinical scrapie. The genotypes of 1361 German breeding sheep from 15 different breeds in northern Germany were determined. Apart from the wildtype allele PrPARQ, at least four mutually exclusive allelic variants were found. The greatest variability within the PrP gene was encountered in texel sheep, in which 14 PrP genotypes were found. In the important meat breeds, Suffolk, German whiteheaded mutton and German blackheaded mutton, the PrPARR allele was predominant, and in these breeds the breeding of scrapie-resistant pedigree flocks within four generations seems to be a feasible option. In the texel sheep, the German merino, the German milk and the German land sheep breeds, the frequency of the PrPARR allele was much lower, and in several breeds no homozygous rams were available for breeding purposes. In these breeds the breeding strategy would depend on the number of heterozygous rams available, but resistant pedigree flocks could be achieved within nine generations.
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