From the Dachshund's stubby legs to the Shar-Pei's wrinkly skin, breeding for certain characteristics has left its mark on the dog genome. Researchers have identified 155 regions on the canine genome that appear to have been influenced by selective breeding.
With more than 400 distinct breeds, dogs come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, fur-styles, and temperaments. The curly-haired toy poodle, small enough to sit in a teacup, barely looks or acts like the smooth-coated Great Dane tall enough to peer like a periscope out of a car's sunroof. Not so apparent are breed differences in how the dogs' bodies function and their susceptibility to various diseases.
Although domestication of dogs began over 14,000 years ago, according to Dr. Joshua Akey, University of Washington (UW) assistant professor of genome sciences, the spectacular diversity among breeds is thought to have originated during the past few centuries through intense artificial selection of and strict breeding for desired characteristics. Akey is the lead author of the effort to map canine genome regions that show signs of recent selection and that contain genes that are prime candidates for further investigation. Those genes are being examined for their possible roles in the most conspicuous variations among dog breeds: size, coat color and texture, behavior, physiology, and skeleton structure.
Their results were published Jan. 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, in the article "Tracking footprints of artificial selection in the dog genome."
The researchers catalogued more than 21,000 tiny variations in the genome. In investigating the relationships among the 10 breeds, they found that, genetically, the German Shepherd, Shar-Pei, Beagle, and Greyhound were especially distinct.
Their list of most differentiated regions of the dog genome included five genes already linked to hallmark traits of certain breeds: one for small size, one for short limbs like those in Dachshunds and other stubby-legged dogs, and three for coats.
In calculating the overlap of the signatures marking selection in the genome, the researchers found that approximately 66 percent occurred in only one or two breeds. They noted it was likely that these genome regions contain genes that confer qualities that distinguish a breed, such as skin wrinkling in the Shar-Pei. In contrast, signatures of selection found in five or more breeds tended to sort the dogs into classes, and include, for example, a gene that governs the miniature size of breeds in the toy group.
A gene associated with dwarfism in mice, the study reports, appears to mediate variations in dog breed size and weight. Small-size breeds, like Dachshund, Beagle, Jack Russell Terrier, and Brittany have enormous differentiation in this gene, compared to larger-size breeds. Another region of peak differentiation in the dog genome, in an area thought to regulate muscle cell formation in embryos, seems to separate the German Shepherd, Jack Russell Terrier, Border Collie and Greyhound from the Dachshund, Beagle, Brittany, and Shar-Pei.
The 155 regions of the genome that appear to have been influenced by selective breeding contain 1,630 known or predicted protein-coding genes. The researchers tried to obtain a broad overview of the molecular functions of these genes. The were surprised to discover that genes involved in immunity and defense were overrepresented in the 155 regions, a phenomenon also discovered in genome analysis of selection in natural populations. Natural and artificial selection were not expected to act on similar classes of genes, the researchers noted, but immune-related genes may be frequent targets of selection because of their critical role in defending against ever-changing infections.
The researchers honed in on a particular genome region in the Shar-Pei. Many of these dogs have excessive wrinkles, but some are smooth. The degree of skin folding correlates with levels of certain molecules whose production may be governed by a gene in this region. Rare mutations in this same gene also cause severe skin wrinkling in people. Tiny genetic variations in this gene seemed linked to whether a Shar-Pei would be smooth or wrinkled, and a rare genetic mutation was found in the Shar-Pei but not in other dogs.
The researchers explained, that, despite the many insights emerging from their data, there were several limitations to their study and in interpreting the findings. They pointed out that a pattern of variation that is unusual to the dog genome at large doesn't prove that specific genome region is under selection.
A major impetus behind studying dog genomics, the researchers pointed out, is its potential to advance knowledge about the genetic basis of human form variations and of differences in disease susceptibility among people. In many cases, the researchers said, it may be easier to locate the genetic targets of selection in dogs, and then map these to related regions in the human genome. Scientists are intrigued by the possibility that recent selection may have affected genome regions common to both human and dog lineages.
"This research has shown that artificial selection in dogs has acted on many of the same genes as natural selection in humans, and that many of these genes are regulators of gene activity," said Dr. Irene Eckstrand, who oversees evolution grants at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. "The statistical and computational approaches used in this study will be of great value in deciphering the organization of human genetic variation, and in identifying the genetic basis of human characteristics."
The researchers also said that a better understanding of artificial selection in dogs may reveal the molecular mechanisms of rapid, short-term evolution. Future work, they hope, may uncover the gene activities responsible for shaping the incredible diversity among the world's dogs.
In addition to Akey, the researchers on the study were Alison L. Ruhe, Aaron Wong, and Mark W. Neff of the Center for Veterinary Genetics at the University of California, Davis; and Dayna T. Akey, Caitlin F. Connelly, Jennifer Madeoy, and Thomas J. Nicholas, all of the UW Department of Genome Sciences. Neff is also affiliated with the Center for Canine Health and Performance, Translational Genomics Institute, Phoenix, and the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The project was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and a Sloan Fellowship in Computational Biology.
Leila Gray | EurekAlert!
Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses
24.04.2017 | Indiana University
Two-dimensional melting of hard spheres experimentally unravelled after 60 years
24.04.2017 | University of Oxford
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2017 | Life Sciences