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1.  A Simple Genetic Architecture Underlies Morphological Variation in Dogs 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(8):e1000451.
The largest genetic study to date of morphology in domestic dogs identifies genes controlling nearly 100 morphological traits and identifies important trends in phenotypic variation within this species.
Domestic dogs exhibit tremendous phenotypic diversity, including a greater variation in body size than any other terrestrial mammal. Here, we generate a high density map of canine genetic variation by genotyping 915 dogs from 80 domestic dog breeds, 83 wild canids, and 10 outbred African shelter dogs across 60,968 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Coupling this genomic resource with external measurements from breed standards and individuals as well as skeletal measurements from museum specimens, we identify 51 regions of the dog genome associated with phenotypic variation among breeds in 57 traits. The complex traits include average breed body size and external body dimensions and cranial, dental, and long bone shape and size with and without allometric scaling. In contrast to the results from association mapping of quantitative traits in humans and domesticated plants, we find that across dog breeds, a small number of quantitative trait loci (≤3) explain the majority of phenotypic variation for most of the traits we studied. In addition, many genomic regions show signatures of recent selection, with most of the highly differentiated regions being associated with breed-defining traits such as body size, coat characteristics, and ear floppiness. Our results demonstrate the efficacy of mapping multiple traits in the domestic dog using a database of genotyped individuals and highlight the important role human-directed selection has played in altering the genetic architecture of key traits in this important species.
Author Summary
Dogs offer a unique system for the study of genes controlling morphology. DNA from 915 dogs from 80 domestic breeds, as well as a set of feral dogs, was tested at over 60,000 points of variation and the dataset analyzed using novel methods to find loci regulating body size, head shape, leg length, ear position, and a host of other traits. Because each dog breed has undergone strong selection by breeders to have a particular appearance, there is a strong footprint of selection in regions of the genome that are important for controlling traits that define each breed. These analyses identified new regions of the genome, or loci, that are important in controlling body size and shape. Our results, which feature the largest number of domestic dogs studied at such a high level of genetic detail, demonstrate the power of the dog as a model for finding genes that control the body plan of mammals. Further, we show that the remarkable diversity of form in the dog, in contrast to some other species studied to date, appears to have a simple genetic basis dominated by genes of major effect.
PMCID: PMC2919785  PMID: 20711490
2.  The IGF1 small dog haplotype is derived from Middle Eastern grey wolves 
BMC Biology  2010;8:16.
A selective sweep containing the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) gene is associated with size variation in domestic dogs. Intron 2 of IGF1 contains a SINE element and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) found in all small dog breeds that is almost entirely absent from large breeds. In this study, we surveyed a large sample of grey wolf populations to better understand the ancestral pattern of variation at IGF1 with a particular focus on the distribution of the small dog haplotype and its relationship to the origin of the dog.
We present DNA sequence data that confirms the absence of the derived small SNP allele in the intron 2 region of IGF1 in a large sample of grey wolves and further establishes the absence of a small dog associated SINE element in all wild canids and most large dog breeds. Grey wolf haplotypes from the Middle East have higher nucleotide diversity suggesting an origin there. Additionally, PCA and phylogenetic analyses suggests a closer kinship of the small domestic dog IGF1 haplotype with those from Middle Eastern grey wolves.
The absence of both the SINE element and SNP allele in grey wolves suggests that the mutation for small body size post-dates the domestication of dogs. However, because all small dogs possess these diagnostic mutations, the mutations likely arose early in the history of domestic dogs. Our results show that the small dog haplotype is closely related to those in Middle Eastern wolves and is consistent with an ancient origin of the small dog haplotype there. Thus, in concordance with past archeological studies, our molecular analysis is consistent with the early evolution of small size in dogs from the Middle East.
See associated opinion by Driscoll and Macdonald:
PMCID: PMC2837629  PMID: 20181231
3.  Identification of Genomic Regions Associated with Phenotypic Variation between Dog Breeds using Selection Mapping 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002316.
The extraordinary phenotypic diversity of dog breeds has been sculpted by a unique population history accompanied by selection for novel and desirable traits. Here we perform a comprehensive analysis using multiple test statistics to identify regions under selection in 509 dogs from 46 diverse breeds using a newly developed high-density genotyping array consisting of >170,000 evenly spaced SNPs. We first identify 44 genomic regions exhibiting extreme differentiation across multiple breeds. Genetic variation in these regions correlates with variation in several phenotypic traits that vary between breeds, and we identify novel associations with both morphological and behavioral traits. We next scan the genome for signatures of selective sweeps in single breeds, characterized by long regions of reduced heterozygosity and fixation of extended haplotypes. These scans identify hundreds of regions, including 22 blocks of homozygosity longer than one megabase in certain breeds. Candidate selection loci are strongly enriched for developmental genes. We chose one highly differentiated region, associated with body size and ear morphology, and characterized it using high-throughput sequencing to provide a list of variants that may directly affect these traits. This study provides a catalogue of genomic regions showing extreme reduction in genetic variation or population differentiation in dogs, including many linked to phenotypic variation. The many blocks of reduced haplotype diversity observed across the genome in dog breeds are the result of both selection and genetic drift, but extended blocks of homozygosity on a megabase scale appear to be best explained by selection. Further elucidation of the variants under selection will help to uncover the genetic basis of complex traits and disease.
Author Summary
There are hundreds of dog breeds that exhibit massive differences in appearance and behavior sculpted by tightly controlled selective breeding. This large-scale natural experiment has provided an ideal resource that geneticists can use to search for genetic variants that control these differences. With this goal, we developed a high-density array that surveys variable sites at more than 170,000 positions in the dog genome and used it to analyze genetic variation in 46 breeds. We identify 44 chromosomal regions that are extremely variable between breeds and are likely to control many of the traits that vary between them, including curly tails and sociality. Many other regions also bear the signature of strong artificial selection. We characterize one such region, known to associate with body size and ear type, in detail using “next-generation” sequencing technology to identify candidate mutations that may control these traits. Our results suggest that artificial selection has targeted genes involved in development and metabolism and that it may have increased the incidence of disease in dog breeds. Knowledge of these regions will be of great importance for uncovering the genetic basis of variation between dog breeds and for finding mutations that cause disease.
PMCID: PMC3192833  PMID: 22022279
4.  A Missense Mutation in PPARD Causes a Major QTL Effect on Ear Size in Pigs 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(5):e1002043.
Chinese Erhualian is the most prolific pig breed in the world. The breed exhibits exceptionally large and floppy ears. To identify genes underlying this typical feature, we previously performed a genome scan in a large scale White Duroc × Erhualian cross and mapped a major QTL for ear size to a 2-cM region on chromosome 7. We herein performed an identical-by-descent analysis that defined the QTL within a 750-kb region. Historically, the large-ear feature has been selected for the ancient sacrificial culture in Erhualian pigs. By using a selective sweep analysis, we then refined the critical region to a 630-kb interval containing 9 annotated genes. Four of the 9 genes are expressed in ear tissues of piglets. Of the 4 genes, PPARD stood out as the strongest candidate gene for its established role in skin homeostasis, cartilage development, and fat metabolism. No differential expression of PPARD was found in ear tissues at different growth stages between large-eared Erhualian and small-eared Duroc pigs. We further screened coding sequence variants in the PPARD gene and identified only one missense mutation (G32E) in a conserved functionally important domain. The protein-altering mutation showed perfect concordance (100%) with the QTL genotypes of all 19 founder animals segregating in the White Duroc × Erhualian cross and occurred at high frequencies exclusively in Chinese large-eared breeds. Moreover, the mutation is of functional significance; it mediates down-regulation of β-catenin and its target gene expression that is crucial for fat deposition in skin. Furthermore, the mutation was significantly associated with ear size across the experimental cross and diverse outbred populations. A worldwide survey of haplotype diversity revealed that the mutation event is of Chinese origin, likely after domestication. Taken together, we provide evidence that PPARD G32E is the variation underlying this major QTL.
Author Summary
A central but challenging objective in current biology is to dissect the genetic basis of quantitative traits. Numerous quantitative trait loci (QTL) have been uncovered in model and farm animals, providing unexpected insights into the biology of complex traits. However, only a few causal variants underlying the QTL have been explicitly identified. By using a battery of genetic and functional assays, we herein show that a major QTL effect on pig ear size is most likely caused by a single base substitution in an evolutionary conserved region of the PPARD gene. The protein-altered mutation is of functional significance and explains a proportion of variation in ear size across diverse pig breeds. A worldwide survey showed that the mutant allele for increased ear size was derived from a common ancestor in Chinese pigs, likely after domestication. These findings establish, for the first time, an essential role of PPARD in ear development and highlight the great potential of naturally occurring mutations in farm animals to gain insights into mammalian biology. Moreover, the knowledge of the PPARD causal mutation adds to the limited list of quantitative trait genes and quantitative trait nucleotides characterized in domesticated animals.
PMCID: PMC3088719  PMID: 21573137
5.  Genome-Wide Analysis of the World's Sheep Breeds Reveals High Levels of Historic Mixture and Strong Recent Selection 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(2):e1001258.
Genomic structure in a global collection of domesticated sheep reveals a history of artificial selection for horn loss and traits relating to pigmentation, reproduction, and body size.
Through their domestication and subsequent selection, sheep have been adapted to thrive in a diverse range of environments. To characterise the genetic consequence of both domestication and selection, we genotyped 49,034 SNP in 2,819 animals from a diverse collection of 74 sheep breeds. We find the majority of sheep populations contain high SNP diversity and have retained an effective population size much higher than most cattle or dog breeds, suggesting domestication occurred from a broad genetic base. Extensive haplotype sharing and generally low divergence time between breeds reveal frequent genetic exchange has occurred during the development of modern breeds. A scan of the genome for selection signals revealed 31 regions containing genes for coat pigmentation, skeletal morphology, body size, growth, and reproduction. We demonstrate the strongest selection signal has occurred in response to breeding for the absence of horns. The high density map of genetic variability provides an in-depth view of the genetic history for this important livestock species.
Author Summary
During the process of domestication, mankind recruited animals from the wild into a captive environment, changing their morphology, behaviour, and genetics. In the case of sheep, domestication and subsequent selection by their animal handlers over thousands of years has produced a spectrum of breeds specialised for the production of wool, milk, and meat. We sought to use this population history to search for the genes that directly underpin phenotypic variation. We collected DNA from 2,819 sheep, belonging to 74 breeds sampled from around the world, and assessed the genotype of each animal at nearly 50,000 locations across the genome. Our results show that sheep breeds have maintained high levels of genetic diversity, in contrast to other domestic animals such as dogs. We also show that particular regions of the genome contain strong evidence for accelerated change in response to artificial selection. The most prominent example was identified in response to breeding for the absence of horns, a trait now common across many modern breeds. Furthermore, we demonstrate that other genomic regions under selection in sheep contain genes controlling pigmentation, reproduction, and body size.
PMCID: PMC3274507  PMID: 22346734
6.  MtDNA diversity among four Portuguese autochthonous dog breeds: a fine-scale characterisation 
BMC Genetics  2005;6:37.
The picture of dog mtDNA diversity, as obtained from geographically wide samplings but from a small number of individuals per region or breed, has revealed weak geographic correlation and high degree of haplotype sharing between very distant breeds. We aimed at a more detailed picture through extensive sampling (n = 143) of four Portuguese autochthonous breeds – Castro Laboreiro Dog, Serra da Estrela Mountain Dog, Portuguese Sheepdog and Azores Cattle Dog-and comparatively reanalysing published worldwide data.
Fifteen haplotypes belonging to four major haplogroups were found in these breeds, of which five are newly reported. The Castro Laboreiro Dog presented a 95% frequency of a new A haplotype, while all other breeds contained a diverse pool of existing lineages. The Serra da Estrela Mountain Dog, the most heterogeneous of the four Portuguese breeds, shared haplotypes with the other mainland breeds, while Azores Cattle Dog shared no haplotypes with the other Portuguese breeds.
A review of mtDNA haplotypes in dogs across the world revealed that: (a) breeds tend to display haplotypes belonging to different haplogroups; (b) haplogroup A is present in all breeds, and even uncommon haplogroups are highly dispersed among breeds and continental areas; (c) haplotype sharing between breeds of the same region is lower than between breeds of different regions and (d) genetic distances between breeds do not correlate with geography.
MtDNA haplotype sharing occurred between Serra da Estrela Mountain dogs (with putative origin in the centre of Portugal) and two breeds in the north and south of the country-with the Castro Laboreiro Dog (which behaves, at the mtDNA level, as a sub-sample of the Serra da Estrela Mountain Dog) and the southern Portuguese Sheepdog. In contrast, the Azores Cattle Dog did not share any haplotypes with the other Portuguese breeds, but with dogs sampled in Northern Europe. This suggested that the Azores Cattle Dog descended maternally from Northern European dogs rather than Portuguese mainland dogs. A review of published mtDNA haplotypes identified thirteen non-Portuguese breeds with sufficient data for comparison. Comparisons between these thirteen breeds, and the four Portuguese breeds, demonstrated widespread haplotype sharing, with the greatest diversity among Asian dogs, in accordance with the central role of Asia in canine domestication.
PMCID: PMC1180824  PMID: 15972107
7.  The insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R) contributes to reduced size in dogs 
Domestic dog breeds have undergone intense selection for a variety of morphologic features, including size. Among small-dog breeds, defined as those averaging less than ~15 in. at the withers, there remains still considerable variation in body size. Yet essentially all such dogs are fixed for the same allele at the insulin-like growth factor 1 gene, which we and others previously found to be a size locus of large effect. In this study we sought to identify additional genes that contribute to tiny size in dogs using an association scan with the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) dataset CanMap, in which 915 purebred dogs were genotyped at 60,968 SNP markers. Our strongest association for tiny size (defined as breed-average height not more than 10 in. at the withers) was on canine chromosome 3 (p = 1.9 × 10−70). Fine mapping revealed a nonsynonymous SNP at chr3:44,706,389 that changes a highly conserved arginine at amino acid 204 to histidine in the insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R). This mutation is predicted to prevent formation of several hydrogen bonds within the cysteine-rich domain of the receptor’s ligand-binding extracellular subunit. Nine of 13 tiny dog breeds carry the mutation and many dogs are homozygous for it. This work underscores the central importance of the IGF1 pathway in controlling the tremendous size diversity of dogs.
PMCID: PMC3511640  PMID: 22903739
8.  Morphometrics within dog breeds are highly reproducible and dispute Rensch’s rule 
Using 27 body measurements, we have identified 13 breed-defining metrics for 109 of 159 domestic dog breeds, most of which are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The data set included 1,155 dogs at least 1 year old (average 5.4 years), and for 53 breed populations, complete measurement data were collected from at least three males and three females. We demonstrate, first, that AKC breed standards are rigorously adhered to for most domestic breeds with little variation observed within breeds. Second, Rensch’s rule, which describes a scaling among taxa such that sexual dimorphism is greater among larger species if males are the larger sex, with less pronounced differences in male versus female body size in smaller species, is not maintained in domestic dog breeds because the proportional size difference between males and females of small and large breeds is essentially the same. Finally, principal components (PCs) analysis describes both the overall body size (PC1) and the shape (length versus width) of the skeleton (PC2). That the integrity of the data set is sufficiently rich to discern PCs has strong implications for mapping studies, suggesting that individual measurements may not be needed for genetic studies of morphologic traits, particularly in the case of breed-defining traits that are typically under strong selection. Rather, phenotypes derived from data sets such as these, collected at a fraction of the effort and cost, may be used to direct whole-genome association studies aimed at understanding the genetic basis of fixed morphologic phenotypes defining distinct dog breeds.
PMCID: PMC2748280  PMID: 19020935
9.  Confirmation and fine-mapping of a major QTL for resistance to infectious pancreatic necrosis in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar): population-level associations between markers and trait 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:368.
Infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) is one of the most prevalent and economically devastating diseases in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) farming worldwide. The disease causes large mortalities at both the fry- and post-smolt stages. Family selection for increased IPN resistance is performed through the use of controlled challenge tests, where survival rates of sib-groups are recorded. However, since challenge-tested animals cannot be used as breeding candidates, within-family selection is not performed and only half of the genetic variation for IPN resistance is being exploited. DNA markers linked to quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting IPN resistance would therefore be a powerful selection tool. The aim of this study was to identify and fine-map QTL for IPN-resistance in Atlantic salmon, for use in marker-assisted selection to increase the rate of genetic improvement for this trait.
A genome scan was carried out using 10 large full-sib families of challenge-tested Atlantic salmon post-smolts and microsatellite markers distributed across the genome. One major QTL for IPN-resistance was detected, explaining 29% and 83% of the phenotypic and genetic variances, respectively. This QTL mapped to the same location as a QTL recently detected in a Scottish Atlantic salmon population. The QTL was found to be segregating in 10 out of 20 mapping parents, and subsequent fine-mapping with additional markers narrowed the QTL peak to a 4 cM region on linkage group 21. Challenge-tested fry were used to show that the QTL had the same effect on fry as on post-smolt, with the confidence interval for QTL position in fry overlapping the confidence interval found in post-smolts. A total of 178 parents were tested for segregation of the QTL, identifying 72 QTL-heterozygous parents. Genotypes at QTL-heterozygous parents were used to determine linkage phases between alleles at the underlying DNA polymorphism and alleles at single markers or multi-marker haplotypes. One four-marker haplotype was found to be the best predictor of QTL alleles, and was successfully used to deduce genotypes of the underlying polymorphism in 72% of the parents of the next generation within a breeding nucleus. A highly significant population-level correlation was found between deduced alleles at the underlying polymorphism and survival of offspring groups in the fry challenge test, parents with the three deduced genotypes (QQ, Qq, qq) having mean offspring mortality rates of 0.13, 0.32, and 0.49, respectively. The frequency of the high-resistance allele (Q) in the population was estimated to be 0.30. Apart from this major QTL, one other experiment-wise significant QTL for IPN-resistance was detected, located on linkage group 4.
The QTL confirmed in this study represents a case of a major gene explaining the bulk of genetic variation for a presumed complex trait. QTL genotypes were deduced within most parents of the 2005 generation of a major breeding company, providing a solid framework for linkage-based MAS within the whole population in subsequent generations. Since haplotype-trait associations valid at the population level were found, there is also a potential for MAS based on linkage disequilibrium (LD). However, in order to use MAS across many generations without reassessment of linkage phases between markers and the underlying polymorphism, the QTL needs to be positioned with even greater accuracy. This will require higher marker densities than are currently available.
PMCID: PMC2728743  PMID: 19664221
10.  Signatures of Diversifying Selection in European Pig Breeds 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(4):e1003453.
Following domestication, livestock breeds have experienced intense selection pressures for the development of desirable traits. This has resulted in a large diversity of breeds that display variation in many phenotypic traits, such as coat colour, muscle composition, early maturity, growth rate, body size, reproduction, and behaviour. To better understand the relationship between genomic composition and phenotypic diversity arising from breed development, the genomes of 13 traditional and commercial European pig breeds were scanned for signatures of diversifying selection using the Porcine60K SNP chip, applying a between-population (differentiation) approach. Signatures of diversifying selection between breeds were found in genomic regions associated with traits related to breed standard criteria, such as coat colour and ear morphology. Amino acid differences in the EDNRB gene appear to be associated with one of these signatures, and variation in the KITLG gene may be associated with another. Other selection signals were found in genomic regions including QTLs and genes associated with production traits such as reproduction, growth, and fat deposition. Some selection signatures were associated with regions showing evidence of introgression from Asian breeds. When the European breeds were compared with wild boar, genomic regions with high levels of differentiation harboured genes related to bone formation, growth, and fat deposition.
Author Summary
The domestic pig, an important source of protein worldwide, was domesticated from the ancestral wild boar in multiple locations throughout the world. In Europe, local types were developed following domestication, but phenotypically distinct breeds only arose in the eighteenth century with the advent of systematic breeding. Recently developed molecular tools for pigs (as well as other livestock species) now allow a genetic characterisation of breed histories, including identification of regions of the genome that have been under selection in the establishment of breeds. We have applied these tools to identify genomic regions associated with breed development in a set of commercial and traditional pig breeds. We found strong evidence of genetic differentiation between breeds near genes associated with traits that are used to define breed standards, such as ear morphology and coat colour, as well as in regions of the genome that are associated with pork production traits. It is well documented that crosses with Asian pigs have been used to modify European breeds. We have found evidence of genetic influence from Asian pigs in European breeds, again in regions of the genome associated with breed standard characteristics, including ear shape and coat colour, as well as production traits.
PMCID: PMC3636142  PMID: 23637623
11.  Genetic Mapping of Fixed Phenotypes: Disease Frequency as a Breed Characteristic 
Journal of Heredity  2009;100(Suppl 1):S37-S41.
Traits that have been stringently selected to conform to specific criteria in a closed population are phenotypic stereotypes. In dogs, Canis familiaris, such stereotypes have been produced by breeding for conformation, performance (behaviors), etc. We measured phenotypes on a representative sample to establish breed stereotypes. DNA samples from 147 dog breeds were used to characterize single nucleotide polymorphism allele frequencies for association mapping of breed stereotypes. We identified significant size loci (quantitative trait loci [QTLs]), implicating candidate genes appropriate to regulation of size (e.g., IGF1, IGF2BP2 SMAD2, etc.). Analysis of other morphological stereotypes, also under extreme selection, identified many additional significant loci. Behavioral loci for herding, pointing, and boldness implicated candidate genes appropriate to behavior (e.g., MC2R, DRD1, and PCDH9). Significant loci for longevity, a breed characteristic inversely correlated with breed size, were identified. The power of this approach to identify loci regulating the incidence of specific polygenic diseases is demonstrated by the association of a specific IGF1 haplotype with hip dysplasia, patella luxation, and pacreatitis.
PMCID: PMC3139361  PMID: 19321632
association; canine; disease; longevity; morphology; QTL
12.  Identification of a second gene associated with variation in vertebral number in domestic pigs 
BMC Genetics  2011;12:5.
The number of vertebrae in pigs varies and is associated with body size. Wild boars have 19 vertebrae, but European commercial breeds for pork production have 20 to 23 vertebrae. We previously identified two quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for number of vertebrae on Sus scrofa chromosomes (SSC) 1 and 7, and reported that an orphan nuclear receptor, NR6A1, was located at the QTL on SSC1. At the NR6A1 locus, wild boars and Asian local breed pigs had the wild-type allele and European commercial-breed pigs had an allele associated with increased numbers of vertebrae (number-increase allele).
Here, we performed a map-based study to define the other QTL, on SSC7, for which we detected genetic diversity in European commercial breeds. Haplotype analysis with microsatellite markers revealed a 41-kb conserved region within all the number-increase alleles in the present study. We also developed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the 450-kb region around the QTL and used them for a linkage disequilibrium analysis and an association study in 199 independent animals. Three haplotype blocks were detected, and SNPs in the 41-kb region presented the highest associations with the number of vertebrae. This region encodes an uncharacterized hypothetical protein that is not a member of any other known gene family. Orthologs appear to exist not only in mammals but also birds and fish. This gene, which we have named vertnin (VRTN) is a candidate for the gene associated with variation in vertebral number. In pigs, the number-increase allele was expressed more abundantly than the wild-type allele in embryos. Among candidate polymorphisms, there is an insertion of a SINE element (PRE1) into the intron of the Q allele as well as the SNPs in the promoter region.
Genetic diversity of VRTN is the suspected cause of the heterogeneity of the number of vertebrae in commercial-breed pigs, so the polymorphism information should be directly useful for assessing the genetic ability of individual animals. The number-increase allele of swine VRTN was suggested to add an additional thoracic segment to the animal. Functional analysis of VRTN may provide novel findings in the areas of developmental biology.
PMCID: PMC3024977  PMID: 21232157
13.  Multibreed genome wide association can improve precision of mapping causative variants underlying milk production in dairy cattle 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:62.
Genome wide association studies (GWAS) in most cattle breeds result in large genomic intervals of significant associations making it difficult to identify causal mutations. This is due to the extensive, low-level linkage disequilibrium within a cattle breed. As there is less linkage disequilibrium across breeds, multibreed GWAS may improve precision of causal variant mapping. Here we test this hypothesis in a Holstein and Jersey cattle data set with 17,925 individuals with records for production and functional traits and 632,003 SNP markers.
By using a cross validation strategy within the Holstein and Jersey data sets, we were able to identify and confirm a large number of QTL. As expected, the precision of mapping these QTL within the breeds was limited. In the multibreed analysis, we found that many loci were not segregating in both breeds. This was partly an artefact of power of the experiments, with the number of QTL shared between the breeds generally increasing with trait heritability. False discovery rates suggest that the multibreed analysis was less powerful than between breed analyses, in terms of how much genetic variance was explained by the detected QTL. However, the multibreed analysis could more accurately pinpoint the location of the well-described mutations affecting milk production such as DGAT1. Further, the significant SNP in the multibreed analysis were significantly enriched in genes regions, to a considerably greater extent than was observed in the single breed analyses. In addition, we have refined QTL on BTA5 and BTA19 to very small intervals and identified a small number of potential candidate genes in these, as well as in a number of other regions.
Where QTL are segregating across breed, multibreed GWAS can refine these to reasonably small genomic intervals. However, such QTL appear to represent only a fraction of the genetic variation. Our results suggest a significant proportion of QTL affecting milk production segregate within rather than across breeds, at least for Holstein and Jersey cattle.
PMCID: PMC3905911  PMID: 24456127
Multibreed analysis; Genomic selection; Dairy cattle; Single nucleotide polymorphism
14.  Classic Selective Sweeps Revealed by Massive Sequencing in Cattle 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(2):e1004148.
Human driven selection during domestication and subsequent breed formation has likely left detectable signatures within the genome of modern cattle. The elucidation of these signatures of selection is of interest from the perspective of evolutionary biology, and for identifying domestication-related genes that ultimately may help to further genetically improve this economically important animal. To this end, we employed a panel of more than 15 million autosomal SNPs identified from re-sequencing of 43 Fleckvieh animals. We mainly applied two somewhat complementary statistics, the integrated Haplotype Homozygosity Score (iHS) reflecting primarily ongoing selection, and the Composite of Likelihood Ratio (CLR) having the most power to detect completed selection after fixation of the advantageous allele. We find 106 candidate selection regions, many of which are harboring genes related to phenotypes relevant in domestication, such as coat coloring pattern, neurobehavioral functioning and sensory perception including KIT, MITF, MC1R, NRG4, Erbb4, TMEM132D and TAS2R16, among others. To further investigate the relationship between genes with signatures of selection and genes identified in QTL mapping studies, we use a sample of 3062 animals to perform four genome-wide association analyses using appearance traits, body size and somatic cell count. We show that regions associated with coat coloring significantly (P<0.0001) overlap with the candidate selection regions, suggesting that the selection signals we identify are associated with traits known to be affected by selection during domestication. Results also provide further evidence regarding the complexity of the genetics underlying coat coloring in cattle. This study illustrates the potential of population genetic approaches for identifying genomic regions affecting domestication-related phenotypes and further helps to identify specific regions targeted by selection during speciation, domestication and breed formation of cattle. We also show that Linkage Disequilibrium (LD) decays in cattle at a much faster rate than previously thought.
Author Summary
Domestication of cattle had a major impact on human civilization by providing protein and physical power for agrarian life style. Domestication followed by breed formation has likely left detectable signatures within the genome of modern cattle. Current cattle breeds, for instance, have a more uniform appearance and milder temper than their wild ancestors. The elucidation of these signatures of selection is of interest to identify domestication-related genes that help to genetically improve this economically important species. The development of novel sequencing technologies has enabled higher-resolution genomic analyses of past selection. In this paper, we exploited whole genome sequencing along with multiple statistical metrics to identify regions/genes putatively targeted by selection. We show strong signals of selection near to several candidate genes related to domesticated phenotypes such as coat coloring, neurobehavioral functioning and sensory perception, including KIT, MITF, MC1R, NRG4, Erbb4, TMEM132D and TAS2R16. By means of association mapping we additionally show that candidate selection regions for appearance traits overlap with major coat color QTLs. Our study demonstrates the utility of population based techniques for detecting past selection and is the first attempt to localize signatures of past selection in cattle based on massive re-sequencing of the entire genome.
PMCID: PMC3937232  PMID: 24586189
15.  Whole genome SNP discovery and analysis of genetic diversity in Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:391.
The turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is an important agricultural species and the second largest contributor to the world’s poultry meat production. Genetic improvement is attributed largely to selective breeding programs that rely on highly heritable phenotypic traits, such as body size and breast muscle development. Commercial breeding with small effective population sizes and epistasis can result in loss of genetic diversity, which in turn can lead to reduced individual fitness and reduced response to selection. The presence of genomic diversity in domestic livestock species therefore, is of great importance and a prerequisite for rapid and accurate genetic improvement of selected breeds in various environments, as well as to facilitate rapid adaptation to potential changes in breeding goals. Genomic selection requires a large number of genetic markers such as e.g. single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) the most abundant source of genetic variation within the genome.
Alignment of next generation sequencing data of 32 individual turkeys from different populations was used for the discovery of 5.49 million SNPs, which subsequently were used for the analysis of genetic diversity among the different populations. All of the commercial lines branched from a single node relative to the heritage varieties and the South Mexican turkey population. Heterozygosity of all individuals from the different turkey populations ranged from 0.17-2.73 SNPs/Kb, while heterozygosity of populations ranged from 0.73-1.64 SNPs/Kb. The average frequency of heterozygous SNPs in individual turkeys was 1.07 SNPs/Kb. Five genomic regions with very low nucleotide variation were identified in domestic turkeys that showed state of fixation towards alleles different than wild alleles.
The turkey genome is much less diverse with a relatively low frequency of heterozygous SNPs as compared to other livestock species like chicken and pig. The whole genome SNP discovery study in turkey resulted in the detection of 5.49 million putative SNPs compared to the reference genome. All commercial lines appear to share a common origin. Presence of different alleles/haplotypes in the SM population highlights that specific haplotypes have been selected in the modern domesticated turkey.
PMCID: PMC3496629  PMID: 22891612
16.  Localization of Canine Brachycephaly Using an Across Breed Mapping Approach 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9632.
The domestic dog, Canis familiaris, exhibits profound phenotypic diversity and is an ideal model organism for the genetic dissection of simple and complex traits. However, some of the most interesting phenotypes are fixed in particular breeds and are therefore less tractable to genetic analysis using classical segregation-based mapping approaches. We implemented an across breed mapping approach using a moderately dense SNP array, a low number of animals and breeds carefully selected for the phenotypes of interest to identify genetic variants responsible for breed-defining characteristics. Using a modest number of affected (10–30) and control (20–60) samples from multiple breeds, the correct chromosomal assignment was identified in a proof of concept experiment using three previously defined loci; hyperuricosuria, white spotting and chondrodysplasia. Genome-wide association was performed in a similar manner for one of the most striking morphological traits in dogs: brachycephalic head type. Although candidate gene approaches based on comparable phenotypes in mice and humans have been utilized for this trait, the causative gene has remained elusive using this method. Samples from nine affected breeds and thirteen control breeds identified strong genome-wide associations for brachycephalic head type on Cfa 1. Two independent datasets identified the same genomic region. Levels of relative heterozygosity in the associated region indicate that it has been subjected to a selective sweep, consistent with it being a breed defining morphological characteristic. Genotyping additional dogs in the region confirmed the association. To date, the genetic structure of dog breeds has primarily been exploited for genome wide association for segregating traits. These results demonstrate that non-segregating traits under strong selection are equally tractable to genetic analysis using small sample numbers.
PMCID: PMC2835769  PMID: 20224736
17.  So many doggone traits: mapping genetics of multiple phenotypes in the domestic dog 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(R1):R52-R57.
The worldwide dog population is fragmented into >350 domestic breeds. Breeds share a common ancestor, the gray wolf. The intense artificial selection imposed by humans to develop breeds with particular behaviors and phenotypic traits has occurred primarily in the last 200–300 years. As a result, the number of genes controlling the major differences in body size, leg length, head shape, etc. that define each dog is small, and genetically tractable. This is in comparison to many human complex traits where small amounts of variance are controlled by literally hundreds of genes. We have been interested in disentangling the genetic mechanisms controlling breed-defining morphological traits in the domestic dog. The structure of the dog population, comprised large numbers of pure breeding populations, makes this task surprisingly doable. In this review, we summarize recent work on the genetics of body size, leg length and skull shape, while setting the stage for tackling other traits. It is our expectation that these results will contribute to a better understanding of mammalian developmental processes overall.
PMCID: PMC3459646  PMID: 22878052
18.  Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(1):e1004016.
To identify genetic changes underlying dog domestication and reconstruct their early evolutionary history, we generated high-quality genome sequences from three gray wolves, one from each of the three putative centers of dog domestication, two basal dog lineages (Basenji and Dingo) and a golden jackal as an outgroup. Analysis of these sequences supports a demographic model in which dogs and wolves diverged through a dynamic process involving population bottlenecks in both lineages and post-divergence gene flow. In dogs, the domestication bottleneck involved at least a 16-fold reduction in population size, a much more severe bottleneck than estimated previously. A sharp bottleneck in wolves occurred soon after their divergence from dogs, implying that the pool of diversity from which dogs arose was substantially larger than represented by modern wolf populations. We narrow the plausible range for the date of initial dog domestication to an interval spanning 11–16 thousand years ago, predating the rise of agriculture. In light of this finding, we expand upon previous work regarding the increase in copy number of the amylase gene (AMY2B) in dogs, which is believed to have aided digestion of starch in agricultural refuse. We find standing variation for amylase copy number variation in wolves and little or no copy number increase in the Dingo and Husky lineages. In conjunction with the estimated timing of dog origins, these results provide additional support to archaeological finds, suggesting the earliest dogs arose alongside hunter-gathers rather than agriculturists. Regarding the geographic origin of dogs, we find that, surprisingly, none of the extant wolf lineages from putative domestication centers is more closely related to dogs, and, instead, the sampled wolves form a sister monophyletic clade. This result, in combination with dog-wolf admixture during the process of domestication, suggests that a re-evaluation of past hypotheses regarding dog origins is necessary.
Author Summary
The process of dog domestication is still poorly understood, largely because no studies thus far have leveraged deeply sequenced whole genomes from wolves and dogs to simultaneously evaluate support for the proposed source regions: East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. To investigate dog origins, we sequence three wolf genomes from the putative centers of origin, two basal dog breeds (Basenji and Dingo), and a golden jackal as an outgroup. We find that none of the wolf lineages from the hypothesized domestication centers is supported as the source lineage for dogs, and that dogs and wolves diverged 11,000–16,000 years ago in a process involving extensive admixture and that was followed by a bottleneck in wolves. In addition, we investigate the amylase (AMY2B) gene family expansion in dogs, which has recently been suggested as being critical to domestication in response to increased dietary starch. We find standing variation in AMY2B copy number in wolves and show that some breeds, such as Dingo and Husky, lack the AMY2B expansion. This suggests that, at the beginning of the domestication process, dogs may have been characterized by a more carnivorous diet than their modern day counterparts, a diet held in common with early hunter-gatherers.
PMCID: PMC3894170  PMID: 24453982
19.  A selective sweep of >8 Mb on chromosome 26 in the Boxer genome 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:339.
Modern dog breeds display traits that are either breed-specific or shared by a few breeds as a result of genetic bottlenecks during the breed creation process and artificial selection for breed standards. Selective sweeps in the genome result from strong selection and can be detected as a reduction or elimination of polymorphism in a given region of the genome.
Extended regions of homozygosity, indicative of selective sweeps, were identified in a genome-wide scan dataset of 25 Boxers from the United Kingdom genotyped at ~20,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These regions were further examined in a second dataset of Boxers collected from a different geographical location and genotyped using higher density SNP arrays (~170,000 SNPs). A selective sweep previously associated with canine brachycephaly was detected on chromosome 1. A novel selective sweep of over 8 Mb was observed on chromosome 26 in Boxer and for a shorter region in English and French bulldogs. It was absent in 171 samples from eight other dog breeds and 7 Iberian wolf samples. A region of extended increased heterozygosity on chromosome 9 overlapped with a previously reported copy number variant (CNV) which was polymorphic in multiple dog breeds.
A selective sweep of more than 8 Mb on chromosome 26 was identified in the Boxer genome. This sweep is likely caused by strong artificial selection for a trait of interest and could have inadvertently led to undesired health implications for this breed. Furthermore, we provide supporting evidence for two previously described regions: a selective sweep on chromosome 1 associated with canine brachycephaly and a CNV on chromosome 9 polymorphic in multiple dog breeds.
PMCID: PMC3152542  PMID: 21722374
20.  Variation of BMP3 Contributes to Dog Breed Skull Diversity 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(8):e1002849.
Since the beginnings of domestication, the craniofacial architecture of the domestic dog has morphed and radiated to human whims. By beginning to define the genetic underpinnings of breed skull shapes, we can elucidate mechanisms of morphological diversification while presenting a framework for understanding human cephalic disorders. Using intrabreed association mapping with museum specimen measurements, we show that skull shape is regulated by at least five quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Our detailed analysis using whole-genome sequencing uncovers a missense mutation in BMP3. Validation studies in zebrafish show that Bmp3 function in cranial development is ancient. Our study reveals the causal variant for a canine QTL contributing to a major morphologic trait.
Author Summary
As a result of selective breeding practices, modern dogs display a multitude of head shapes. Breeds such as the Pug and Bulldog popularize one of these morphologies, termed “brachycephaly.” A short, upward-pointing snout, a massive and rounded head, and an underbite typify brachycephalic breeds. Here, we have coupled the phenotypes collected from museum skulls with the genotypes collected from dogs and identified five regions of the dog genome that are associated with canine brachycephaly. Fine mapping at one of these regions revealed a causal mutation in the gene BMP3. Bmp3's role in regulating cranial development is evolutionarily ancient, as zebrafish require its function to generate a normal craniofacial morphology. Our data begin to expose the genetic mechanisms unknowingly employed by breeders to create and diversify the cranial shape of dogs.
PMCID: PMC3410846  PMID: 22876193
21.  Genome-Wide Analysis Reveals Selection for Important Traits in Domestic Horse Breeds 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003211.
Intense selective pressures applied over short evolutionary time have resulted in homogeneity within, but substantial variation among, horse breeds. Utilizing this population structure, 744 individuals from 33 breeds, and a 54,000 SNP genotyping array, breed-specific targets of selection were identified using an FST-based statistic calculated in 500-kb windows across the genome. A 5.5-Mb region of ECA18, in which the myostatin (MSTN) gene was centered, contained the highest signature of selection in both the Paint and Quarter Horse. Gene sequencing and histological analysis of gluteal muscle biopsies showed a promoter variant and intronic SNP of MSTN were each significantly associated with higher Type 2B and lower Type 1 muscle fiber proportions in the Quarter Horse, demonstrating a functional consequence of selection at this locus. Signatures of selection on ECA23 in all gaited breeds in the sample led to the identification of a shared, 186-kb haplotype including two doublesex related mab transcription factor genes (DMRT2 and 3). The recent identification of a DMRT3 mutation within this haplotype, which appears necessary for the ability to perform alternative gaits, provides further evidence for selection at this locus. Finally, putative loci for the determination of size were identified in the draft breeds and the Miniature horse on ECA11, as well as when signatures of selection surrounding candidate genes at other loci were examined. This work provides further evidence of the importance of MSTN in racing breeds, provides strong evidence for selection upon gait and size, and illustrates the potential for population-based techniques to find genomic regions driving important phenotypes in the modern horse.
Author Summary
A breed of the horse typically consists of individuals sharing very similar aesthetic and performance traits. However, a great deal of variation in traits exists between breeds. The range of variation observed among breeds can be illustrated by the size difference between the Miniature horse (0.74 m and 100 kg) and draft horse (1.8 m and 900 kg), or by comparing the optimum racing distance of the Quarter Horse (1/4 mile) to that of the Arabian (100 miles or more). In this study, we exploited the breed structure of the horse to identify regions of the genome that are significantly different between breeds and therefore may harbor genes and genetic variants targeted by selective breeding. This work resulted in the identification of variants in the Paint and Quarter Horse significantly associated with altered muscle fiber type proportions favorable for increased sprinting ability. A strong signature of selection was also identified in breeds that perform alternative gaits, and several genomic regions identified are hypothesized to be involved in the determination of size. This study has demonstrated the utility of this approach for studying the equine genome and is the first to show a functional consequence of selective breeding in the horse.
PMCID: PMC3547851  PMID: 23349635
22.  Connecting serum IGF-1, body size, and age in the domestic dog 
Age  2010;33(3):475-483.
Many investigations in recent years have targeted understanding the genetic and biochemical basis of aging. Collectively, genetic factors and biological mechanisms appear to influence longevity in general and specifically; reduction of the insulin/IGF-1 signaling cascade has extended life span in diverse species. Genetic alteration of mammals for life extension indicates correlation to serum IGF-1 levels in mice, and IGF-1 levels have been demonstrated as a physiological predictor of frailty with aging in man. Longevity and aging data in the dog offer a close measure of the natural multifactorial longevity interactions of genetic influence, IGF-1 signaling, and environmental factors such as exposure, exercise, and lifestyle. The absence of genetic alteration more closely represents the human longevity status, and the unique species structure of the canine facilitates analyses not possible in other species. These investigations aimed to measure serum IGF-1 in numerous purebred and mixed-breed dogs of variable size and longevity in comparison to age, gender, and spay/neuter differences. The primary objective of this investigation was to determine plasma IGF-1 levels in the adult dog, including a wide range of breeds and adult body weight. The sample set includes animals ranging from just a few months of age through 204 months and ranging in size from 5 to 160 lb. Four groups were evaluated for serum IGF-1 levels, including intact and neutered males, and intact and spayed females. IGF-1 loss over time, as a function of age, decreases in all groups with significant differences between males and females. The relationship between IGF-1 and weight differs depending upon spay/neuter status, but there is an overall increase in IGF-1 levels with increasing weight. The data, currently being interrogated further for delineation of IGF-1 receptor variants and sex differences, are being collected longitudinally and explored for longevity associations previously unavailable in non-genetically modified mammals.
PMCID: PMC3168604  PMID: 20865338
Longevity; IGF-1; Canine; Aging; Insulin signaling
23.  Identification of Novel Genetic Risk Loci in Maltese Dogs with Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis and Evidence of a Shared Genetic Risk across Toy Dog Breeds 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112755.
Necrotizing meningoencephalitis (NME) affects toy and small breed dogs causing progressive, often fatal, inflammation and necrosis in the brain. Genetic risk loci for NME previously were identified in pug dogs, particularly associated with the dog leukocyte antigen (DLA) class II complex on chromosome 12, but have not been investigated in other susceptible breeds. We sought to evaluate Maltese and Chihuahua dogs, in addition to pug dogs, to identify novel or shared genetic risk factors for NME development. Genome-wide association testing of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Maltese dogs with NME identified 2 regions of genome-wide significance on chromosomes 4 (chr4:74522353T>A, p = 8.1×10−7) and 15 (chr15:53338796A>G, p = 1.5×10−7). Haplotype analysis and fine-mapping suggests that ILR7 and FBXW7, respectively, both important for regulation of immune system function, could be the underlying associated genes. Further evaluation of these regions and the previously identified DLA II locus across all three breeds, revealed an enrichment of nominal significant SNPs associated with chromosome 15 in pug dogs and DLA II in Maltese and Chihuahua dogs. Meta-analysis confirmed effect sizes the same direction in all three breeds for both the chromosome 15 and DLA II loci (p = 8.6×10–11 and p = 2.5×10−7, respectively). This suggests a shared genetic background exists between all breeds and confers susceptibility to NME, but effect sizes might be different among breeds. In conclusion, we identified the first genetic risk factors for NME development in the Maltese, chromosome 4 and chromosome 15, and provide evidence for a shared genetic risk between breeds associated with chromosome 15 and DLA II. Last, DLA II and IL7R both have been implicated in human inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, suggesting that similar pharmacotherapeutic targets across species should be investigated.
PMCID: PMC4231098  PMID: 25393235
24.  Genomic scan of selective sweeps in thin and fat tail sheep breeds for identifying of candidate regions associated with fat deposition 
BMC Genetics  2012;13:10.
Identification of genomic regions that have been targets of selection for phenotypic traits is one of the most important and challenging areas of research in animal genetics. However, currently there are relatively few genomic regions identified that have been subject to positive selection. In this study, a genome-wide scan using ~50,000 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) was performed in an attempt to identify genomic regions associated with fat deposition in fat-tail breeds. This trait and its modification are very important in those countries grazing these breeds.
Two independent experiments using either Iranian or Ovine HapMap genotyping data contrasted thin and fat tail breeds. Population differentiation using FST in Iranian thin and fat tail breeds revealed seven genomic regions. Almost all of these regions overlapped with QTLs that had previously been identified as affecting fat and carcass yield traits in beef and dairy cattle. Study of selection sweep signatures using FST in thin and fat tail breeds sampled from the Ovine HapMap project confirmed three of these regions located on Chromosomes 5, 7 and X. We found increased homozygosity in these regions in favour of fat tail breeds on chromosome 5 and X and in favour of thin tail breeds on chromosome 7.
In this study, we were able to identify three novel regions associated with fat deposition in thin and fat tail sheep breeds. Two of these were associated with an increase of homozygosity in the fat tail breeds which would be consistent with selection for mutations affecting fat tail size several thousand years after domestication.
PMCID: PMC3351017  PMID: 22364287
25.  Four Loci Explain 83% of Size Variation in the Horse 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39929.
Horse body size varies greatly due to intense selection within each breed. American Miniatures are less than one meter tall at the withers while Shires and Percherons can exceed two meters. The genetic basis for this variation is not known. We hypothesize that the breed population structure of the horse should simplify efforts to identify genes controlling size. In support of this, here we show with genome-wide association scans (GWAS) that genetic variation at just four loci can explain the great majority of horse size variation. Unlike humans, which are naturally reproducing and possess many genetic variants with weak effects on size, we show that horses, like other domestic mammals, carry just a small number of size loci with alleles of large effect. Furthermore, three of our horse size loci contain the LCORL, HMGA2 and ZFAT genes that have previously been found to control human height. The LCORL/NCAPG locus is also implicated in cattle growth and HMGA2 is associated with dog size. Extreme size diversification is a hallmark of domestication. Our results in the horse, complemented by the prior work in cattle and dog, serve to pinpoint those very few genes that have played major roles in the rapid evolution of size during domestication.
PMCID: PMC3394777  PMID: 22808074

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