Homozygous mutant rats at the newly found white spotting (Ws) locus were anemic and deficient in mast cells and melanocytes. Because the phenotype of Ws/Ws rats resembled the phenotype of mice possessing a double-gene dose of mutant alleles at the W locus and because the c-kit gene was mapped at the W locus of mice, we characterized the c-kit gene of Ws/Ws rats. The authentic sequence of the rat c-kit cDNA was determined by using a cDNA library prepared from the hippocampus of Sprague-Dawley rats. The c-kit cDNA of Ws/Ws and normal (+/+) control rats was obtained by reverse transcriptase modification of the polymerase chain reaction. When compared with the authentic sequence, a deletion of 12 bases was found in the c-kit cDNA of Ws/Ws rats. This change was shown to be a result of the deletion of the genomic DNA. Four amino acids encoded by the deleted 12 bases (ie, Val-Lys-Gly-Asn) were located at two amino acids downstream from the tyrosine autophosphorylation site in the c-kit kinase and were conserved not only in mouse and human c-kit kinases but also in mouse and human c-fms kinases (ie, receptors of colony-stimulating factor-1). Taken together, the Ws/Ws rat is the first characterized mutant of the c-kit gene in an animal species other than the mouse.

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