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Hair follicle and fibre characteristics of Peruvian alpaca and llama and Bolivian llama were analysed in three experimental studies. The first experiment was designed to determine the age at which all the secondary follicles reach maturity, as well as to compare the skin follicular structure and activity among these different types of Peruvian camelids. It is concluded that the South American camelids investigated in this study gained a complete and mature skin follicle apparatus at an early age, and hence producers should practise an early first shearing. A second Peruvian experiment investigated comparative fibre cuticular structure on twenty Peruvian domestic camelids comprising huacaya, suri and llama (woolly) ‘chacos’ genotypes. The results showed that the number of cuticular scales per 100 μm fibre length proved to be strongly affected by both the fleece type and the fibre diameter. The suri fleece was clearly differentiated from those of both huacaya and llama by possessing the highest percentage of fibres with a number of scales less than eight, the lowest percentage of fibres with more than nine scales, along with the lowest percentage of fibres with a diameter of more than 35 μm. It is concluded that, with the exception of the scale height, the cuticular parameters investigated in this study can be utilised in textile fibre analyses for distinguishing among these three types of fleece, as well as in selection projects designed to produce homogeneous fibres from Peruvian domestic camelids. A further study was conducted to determine the age at which the hair follicles in Bolivian llamas reach maturity as well as for comparing the skin follicular structure and activity between the two distinct genotypes. Thirty-one llama kids were chosen. They were born between January and April 1998 and were of different sex and of ‘Q’aras’ (or Carguera) or ‘T’amphullis’ type. Skin biopsies were taken from the right mid-costal region at 2, 4, 6, 8,10,12 and 14 months of age in order to monitor four follicular parameters. In this experiment, secondary to primary (S/P) data show that the Bolivian llama population analysed possessed a complete and mature skin follicle apparatus at birth that remained essentially constant throughout the investigation period. Due to the variation of these traits inside the same genetic population, the present results showed that T and Q types could only be subjective on the basis of S/P ratio.
Hair ‘fine’ fibre is an important commercial product of farmed and certain wild animal species. The fibre is produced in follicles embedded in skin. These have properties in common with other tissues of the integument and have importance in determining yield and quality of fibre. Means of understanding and improving these characteristics are informed by knowledge of integumental and follicle biology. This paper reviews contemporary information that identifies the major fibre-producing species and their production characteristic. It surveys knowledge describing fundamental biology of the integument and considers information derived for the hair follicle from studies on a number of species including genetically modified mice. It identifies the composition of the follicle and describes components and interrelationships between epidermal hair-fibre producing epidermis and fibroblast- and connective tissue-containing dermis. The structure of different primary and secondary follicle types, and associated structures, are described. Focus is given to the alterations in anatomy and in behaviour from active to inactive state, which occurs during the hair follicle cycle. Information is provided on the anatomical substructures (hair medulla, cortex, cuticles and supporting sheaths and dermal papilla), cellular and extracellular composition, and adhesion and chemical signalling systems, which regulate development from the early embryo to post-natal state and subsequent cycling. Such signalling involves the dermis and its specialist fibroblasts, which secrete signalling molecules, which along with those from local epidermis and systemic sources, largely determine structure and function of epidermal cells. Such chemical signalling typically includes endocrine-, paracrine-, autocrine- and juxtacrine-acting molecules and interactions with their receptors located on cell membranes or intracellularly with transduction of message mediated by transcription factors at gene level. Important hormones and growth factors and inhibitors regulating morphogenic and/or mitogenic activity are identified. These mediate mechanisms associated with presence or absence in skin and development of patterning for primary or secondary follicles. Reference is made to deposition of individual keratins and keratin-associated proteins in follicle sub-structures and to fibre properties such as length, diameter, medullation, crimp and lustre. Pre- and post-natal regulation of pigmentation by melanocytes is reviewed. Brief attention is given to genomic and non-genomic variation and impact on the phenotypes expressed and the role of regulatory gene products as potential molecular markers for selection of superior animals. The importance of nutrients in providing substrates for follicular structures and enzymes and in molecules facilitating gene expression is also considered.
This paper reviews genetics of fibre production and fleece characteristics in small ruminants, Angora rabbit and South American camelids with a special distinction between single-coated (SC) and double-coated (DC) species. Considering the biology of fibre production, there are variations in coat composition and structure, fibre growth pattern and fibre structure and quality between these two main kinds of fibre-producing animals. In SC species, all fibres are nearly similar in dimensions and are produced from individual follicles that have a very long period, essentially permanent, of active growth without a synchronous phase of rest between follicles. In contrast, in DC species the fleece comprises a coarse outer coat and a fine inner coat with variations of coat composition and structure, and fibre growth pattern according to the season with a well-defined duration of fibre growth. Genetic basis of hair growth pattern, coat composition and fibre structure are different between species. In small ruminants, these coat characters are additive and because of several genes whereas in rabbit, several autosomal recessive genes determine fibre growth, coat composition and structure. In alpaca, the fleece type (Suri or Huacaya) is determined by a single dominant gene. This paper also reviews genetic parameters of fibre production traits in Angora goat, Angora rabbit and alpaca in which many aspects of the genetic basis of fibre production are analogous. There are many traits controlling both fibre quality and fibre quantity, and most of these traits tend to be moderately to strongly inherited so that a rapid genetic progress in any traits is possible and indeed has been achieved. However, there are differences in breeding programmes. In DC Angora rabbit, selection for one single trait, the easy measurable total fleece weight has general beneficial effects on fleece quality. However, because of antagonistic relations between qualitative and quantitative traits in SC species, achieving this goal requires a multi-trait selection index approach. Gene mapping studies have recently identified several putative quantitative trait loci and major genes affecting fibre and fleece characteristics in sheep, goat and rabbit are reviewed. The whole genome sequence of sheep and rabbit will be available in the near future and the use of high-density single nucleotide polymorphism chip will allow fine mapping and dissection of the genetic basis of many production traits including fibre production and fleece characteristics. The application of these techniques will thus contribute to improving the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of small ruminant and rabbit fibre production.
Mammalian hair follicles are complex multicellular structures in the skin, which produce hair fibre under the influence of locally produced and systemic signalling systems. Investigation to determine mechanisms of regulation, follicular responses and the importance of nutritional supply have utilised a number of in vivo and in vitro approaches. Included in these are studies on isolated intact anagen secondary follicles singly or in groups with incubation in culture medium. These utilise techniques developed for investigation of follicles from human skin. Results from selected studies reviewed here demonstrate differences in capacity for hair growth and protein synthesis between secondary follicles from Angora and cashmere-bearing goats. Mohair follicles were shown to exhibit faster hair shaft elongation both in vivo and in vitro, to have greater DNA content per follicle and to deposit significantly more protein per follicle and per unit of DNA. Incubation of anagen mohair and cashmere follicles in the presence of melatonin or prolactin showed positive responses in hair shaft growth and protein synthesis to both signalling molecules. This result indicated directly acting effects on the follicle in addition to any indirect effects arising at a whole animal level in response to, for example, variation in photoperiod. Similarly, epidermal growth factor was shown to alter elongation and protein synthesis in mohair follicles and to produce, at higher concentration, club hair structures similar to effects observed in other species. The vitamin biotin was shown to be important in maintaining viability of isolated sheep secondary hair follicles where supplementation increased the proportion continuing to grow. Effects on growth and apparent protein synthesis suggested comparatively lesser effects on follicles, which remained viable. Histology on follicles indicated effects of biotin deficiency in reducing proliferation of basal keratinocytes. The final study, included in this review, demonstrated that supply of the essential sulphur-containing amino acid l-methionine was necessary to maintain the viability and growth of mohair follicles. l-cysteine was not required in the presence of l-methionine, although there was evidence of an optimisation when both amino acids were present in adequate concentrations. Consideration is given to the importance of transport mechanisms and capacity to utilise absorbed nutrients when considering optimising nutritional supply to individual follicles. These may then provide targets for attainment in applied nutrition of animals in vivo.
Hair fibre is regarded as a unique mammalian feature with an important role for endothermy. Artificial selection for hair characteristics resulted in marked changes with regard to follicle number, type, distribution, growth and natural shedding. This review focuses on the fine fibre-producing South American camelids (SACs) and the relationship between their hair coat and thermoregulation. SACs have developed several special integumental characteristics. While the hair coat of the wild lamoids vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) and guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is formed by two types of hair (the coarse outer guard hairs and a finer undercoat), the domesticated llamas (Lama glama) and alpaca (Lama pacos) exhibit variably double coat and predominantly single coat, respectively. The distribution of the hair coat across the body is not homogenous. Thermal windows with shorter hair or thinner skin can be identified at the ventral abdomen, axillary space and inside of the thighs (about 20% of the skin), thus allowing to modulate heat dissipation. In contrast to sheep wool, lamoid fibres are mainly medullated. The thermal conductance of summer pelage was higher than that of the winter fleece and highest for the axillar and lower flanks. Lamoids have developed behavioural strategies to modify heat loss by adopting specific postures according to ambient conditions by closing or opening the thermal windows. Energy savings of 67% attributed to posture were calculated. SACs have shown to be able to adapt to a broad range of different climatic conditions. The specific integumental characteristics of SACs indicate that they have developed adaptation mechanisms particularly suited for cooler climates. Accordingly, hyperthermia might become a problem in hot, humid areas outside of their original habitat. Several studies showed the beneficial effect of shearing against heat stress. In particular, fertility in males exposed to heat stress may be improved by shearing. Infrared thermography reveals that in shorn animals the heat is radiated across the entire body surface and is not restricted to the thermal windows. However, shearing also changes the conditions of the protective layer, resulting in a loss of thermal conductance that may result in adverse effects when animals are kept under cold temperatures. The length of residual fibre appears to be crucial in avoiding excessive heat loss in a cold environment, as demonstrated by shearing experiments with different shearing machines. There is, therefore, potential for welfare considerations to conflict with industrial demands for fibre length or homogenous quality.
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