The effect of the 'Gait keeper' mutation in the DMRT3 gene on gaiting ability in Icelandic horses

T Kristjansson, S Bjornsdottir, A Sigurdsson, L S Andersson, G Lindgren, S J Helyar, A M Klonowski, T Arnason

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28 Citations (Scopus)


A nonsense mutation in DMRT3 ('Gait keeper' mutation) has a predominant effect on gaiting ability in horses, being permissive for the ability to perform lateral gaits and having a favourable effect on speed capacity in trot. The DMRT3 mutant allele (A) has been found in high frequency in gaited breeds and breeds bred for harness racing, while other horse breeds were homozygous for the wild-type allele (C). The aim of this study was to evaluate further the effect of the DMRT3 nonsense mutation on the gait quality and speed capacity in the multigaited Icelandic horse and demonstrate how the frequencies of the A- and C- alleles have changed in the Icelandic horse population in recent decades. It was confirmed that homozygosity for the DMRT3 nonsense mutation relates to the ability to pace. It further had a favourable effect on scores in breeding field tests for the lateral gait tölt, demonstrated by better beat quality, speed capacity and suppleness. Horses with the CA genotype had on the other hand significantly higher scores for walk, trot, canter and gallop, and they performed better beat and suspension in trot and gallop. These results indicate that the AA genotype reinforces the coordination of ipsilateral legs, with the subsequent negative effect on the synchronized movement of diagonal legs compared with the CA genotype. The frequency of the A-allele has increased in recent decades with a corresponding decrease in the frequency of the C-allele. The estimated frequency of the A-allele in the Icelandic horse population in 2012 was 0.94. Selective breeding for lateral gaits in the Icelandic horse population has apparently altered the frequency of DMRT3 genotypes with a predicted loss of the C-allele in relatively few years. The results have practical implications for breeding and training of Icelandic horses and other gaited horse breeds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-25
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Issue number6
Early online date30 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Animals
  • Breeding
  • Codon, Nonsense
  • Functional Laterality
  • Gait
  • Genotype
  • Horses
  • Iceland
  • Transcription Factors


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