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1.  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
2.  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
3.  The long (and winding) road to gene discovery for canine hip dysplasia 
Hip dysplasia is a common inherited trait of dogs that results in secondary osteoarthritis. In this article the methods used to uncover the mutations contributing to this condition are reviewed, beginning with hip phenotyping. Coarse, genome-wide, microsatellite-based screens of pedigrees of greyhounds and dysplastic Labrador retrievers were used to identify linked quantitative trait loci (QTL). Fine-mapping across two chromosomes (CFA11 and 29) was employed using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping. Power analyses and preferential selection of dogs for ongoing SNP-based genotyping is described with the aim of refining the QTL intervals to 1–2 megabases on these and several additional chromosomes prior to candidate gene screening. The review considers how a mutation or a genetic marker such as a SNP or haplotype of SNPs might be combined with pedigree and phenotype information to create a ‘breeding value’ that could improve the accuracy of predicting a dog’s hip conformation.
PMCID: PMC2679856  PMID: 19297220
Canine hip dysplasia; Genome wide screen; Microsatellites; Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP); Breeding values
4.  A Single IGF1 Allele Is a Major Determinant of Small Size in Dogs 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2007;316(5821):112-115.
The domestic dog exhibits greater diversity in body size than any other terrestrial vertebrate. We used a strategy that exploits the breed structure of dogs to investigate the genetic basis of size. First, through a genome-wide scan, we identified a major quantitative trait locus (QTL) on chromosome 15 influencing size variation within a single breed. Second, we examined genetic variation in the 15-megabase interval surrounding the QTL in small and giant breeds and found marked evidence for a selective sweep spanning a single gene (IGF1), encoding insulin-like growth factor 1. A single IGF1 single-nucleotide polymorphism haplotype is common to all small breeds and nearly absent from giant breeds, suggesting that the same causal sequence variant is a major contributor to body size in all small dogs.
PMCID: PMC2789551  PMID: 17412960
5.  Short-term selective breeding for High and Low prepulse inhibition of the acoustic startle response; pharmacological characterization and QTL mapping in the selected lines 
Selective breeding offers several important advantages over using inbred strain panels in detecting genetically correlated traits to the selection phenotype. The purpose of the current study was to selectively breed for prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response (ASR), to pharmacologically and behaviorally characterize the selected lines and to use the lines for quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping. Starting with heterogeneous stock mice formed by crossing the C57BL/6J, DBA/2J, BALB/cJ and LP/J inbred strains and using a short term selective breeding strategy, animals were selected for High and Low PPI. The selection phenotype was the 80 dB prepulse tone (15 dB above the background noise). After five generations of selection, the High and Low lines differed significantly (78.1±3.1 vs. 45.2±3.9 [percent inhibition], p<0.00001). The effects of haloperidol and MK-801 on PPI were not different between the High and Low lines. However, at the highest dose tested (10 mg/kg), the High line was more sensitive than the Low line to the disruptive PPI effects of methamphetamine. The lines did not differ in terms of basal activity or methamphetamine-induced changes in locomotor activity. The High and Low lines were genotyped using a panel of 768 SNPs. Significant QTLs (LOD > 10) were detected on chromosomes 11 and 16 that appeared similar to those detected previously (Hitzemann et al. 2001; Petryshen et al. 2005). Overall, the current study illustrates that the heritability of PPI is sufficient for short term selective breeding and that the lines which are developed can be used to characterize the factors associated with the regulation of PPI.
PMCID: PMC2591930  PMID: 18513787
prepulse inhibition; mice; genetics; selection; quantitative trait loci
6.  Assortative mating and fragmentation within dog breeds 
There are around 400 internationally recognized dog breeds in the world today, with a remarkable diversity in size, shape, color and behavior. Breeds are considered to be uniform groups with similar physical characteristics, shaped by selection rooted in human preferences. This has led to a large genetic difference between breeds and a large extent of linkage disequilibrium within breeds. These characteristics are important for association mapping of candidate genes for diseases and therefore make dogs ideal models for gene mapping of human disorders. However, genetic uniformity within breeds may not always be the case. We studied patterns of genetic diversity within 164 poodles and compared it to 133 dogs from eight other breeds.
Our analyses revealed strong population structure within poodles, with differences among some poodle groups as pronounced as those among other well-recognized breeds. Pedigree analysis going three generations back in time confirmed that subgroups within poodles result from assortative mating imposed by breed standards as well as breeder preferences. Matings have not taken place at random or within traditionally identified size classes in poodles. Instead, a novel set of five poodle groups was identified, defined by combinations of size and color, which is not officially recognized by the kennel clubs. Patterns of genetic diversity in other breeds suggest that assortative mating leading to fragmentation may be a common feature within many dog breeds.
The genetic structure observed in poodles is the result of local mating patterns, implying that breed fragmentation may be different in different countries. Such pronounced structuring within dog breeds can increase the power of association mapping studies, but also represents a serious problem if ignored.
In dog breeding, individuals are selected on the basis of morphology, behaviour, working or show purposes, as well as geographic population structure. The same processes which have historically created dog breeds are still ongoing, and create further subdivision within current dog breeds.
PMCID: PMC2266708  PMID: 18226210
7.  Advances in QTL Mapping in Pigs 
Over the past 15 years advances in the porcine genetic linkage map and discovery of useful candidate genes have led to valuable gene and trait information being discovered. Early use of exotic breed crosses and now commercial breed crosses for quantitative trait loci (QTL) scans and candidate gene analyses have led to 110 publications which have identified 1,675 QTL. Additionally, these studies continue to identify genes associated with economically important traits such as growth rate, leanness, feed intake, meat quality, litter size, and disease resistance. A well developed QTL database called PigQTLdb is now as a valuable tool for summarizing and pinpointing in silico regions of interest to researchers. The commercial pig industry is actively incorporating these markers in marker-assisted selection along with traditional performance information to improve traits of economic performance. The long awaited sequencing efforts are also now beginning to provide sequence available for both comparative genomics and large scale single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) association studies. While these advances are all positive, development of useful new trait families and measurement of new or underlying traits still limits future discoveries. A review of these developments is presented.
PMCID: PMC1802014  PMID: 17384738
Pig; Quantitative trait Loci; QTL; genome sequence; database
8.  Comparative Analyses Identify the Contributions of Exotic Donors to Disease Resistance in a Barley Experimental Population 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2013;3(11):1945-1953.
Introgression of novel genetic variation into breeding populations is frequently required to facilitate response to new abiotic or biotic pressure. This is particularly true for the introduction of host pathogen resistance in plant breeding. However, the number and genomic location of loci contributed by donor parents are often unknown, complicating efforts to recover desired agronomic phenotypes. We examined allele frequency differentiation in an experimental barley breeding population subject to introgression and subsequent selection for Fusarium head blight resistance. Allele frequency differentiation between the experimental population and the base population identified three primary genomic regions putatively subject to selection for resistance. All three genomic regions have been previously identified by quantitative trait locus (QTL) and association mapping. Based on the degree of identity-by-state relative to donor parents, putative donors of resistance alleles were also identified. The successful application of comparative population genetic approaches in this barley breeding experiment suggests that the approach could be applied to other breeding populations that have undergone defined breeding and selection histories, with the potential to provide valuable information for genetic improvement.
PMCID: PMC3815057  PMID: 24048643
disease resistance; introgression; allele frequency; identity-by-state; breeding
9.  Optimal selection on two quantitative trait loci with linkage 
A mathematical approach to optimize selection on multiple quantitative trait loci (QTL) and an estimate of residual polygenic effects was applied to selection on two linked or unlinked additive QTL. Strategies to maximize total or cumulative discounted response over ten generations were compared to standard QTL selection on the sum of breeding values for the QTL and an estimated breeding value for polygenes, and to phenotypic selection. Optimal selection resulted in greater response to selection than standard QTL or phenotypic selection. Tight linkage between the QTL (recombination rate 0.05) resulted in a slightly lower response for standard QTL and phenotypic selection but in a greater response for optimal selection. Optimal selection capitalized on linkage by emphasizing selection on favorable haplotypes. When the objective was to maximize total response after ten generations and QTL were unlinked, optimal selection increased QTL frequencies to fixation in a near linear manner. When starting frequencies were equal for the two QTL, equal emphasis was given to each QTL, regardless of the difference in effects of the QTL and regardless of the linkage, but the emphasis given to each of the two QTL was not additive. These results demonstrate the ability of optimal selection to capitalize on information on the complex genetic basis of quantitative traits that is forthcoming.
PMCID: PMC2705426  PMID: 12081806
selection; marker-assisted selection; quantitative trait loci; optimization
10.  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
11.  Association Analysis of SSR Markers with Phenology, Grain, and Stover-Yield Related Traits in Pearl Millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) 
The Scientific World Journal  2014;2014:562327.
Pearl millet is a staple food crop for millions of people living in the arid and semi-arid tropics. Molecular markers have been used to identify genomic regions linked to traits of interest by conventional QTL mapping and association analysis. Phenotypic recurrent selection is known to increase frequencies of favorable alleles and decrease those unfavorable for the traits under selection. This study was undertaken (i) to quantify the response to recurrent selection for phenotypic traits during breeding of the pearl millet open-pollinated cultivar “CO (Cu) 9” and its four immediate progenitor populations and (ii) to assess the ability of simple sequence repeat (SSR) marker alleles to identify genomic regions linked to grain and stover yield-related traits in these populations by association analysis. A total of 159 SSR alleles were detected across 34 selected single-copy SSR loci. SSR marker data revealed presence of subpopulations. Association analysis identified genomic regions associated with flowering time located on linkage group (LG) 6 and plant height on LG4, LG6, and LG7. Marker alleles on LG6 were associated with stover yield, and those on LG7 were associated with grain yield. Findings of this study would give an opportunity to develop marker-assisted recurrent selection (MARS) or marker-assisted population improvement (MAPI) strategies to increase the rate of gain for pearl millet populations undergoing recurrent selection.
PMCID: PMC3910278  PMID: 24526909
12.  Parallel Mapping and Simultaneous Sequencing Reveals Deletions in BCAN and FAM83H Associated with Discrete Inherited Disorders in a Domestic Dog Breed 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(1):e1002462.
The domestic dog (Canis familiaris) segregates more naturally-occurring diseases and phenotypic variation than any other species and has become established as an unparalled model with which to study the genetics of inherited traits. We used a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and targeted resequencing of DNA from just five dogs to simultaneously map and identify mutations for two distinct inherited disorders that both affect a single breed, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We investigated episodic falling (EF), a paroxysmal exertion-induced dyskinesia, alongside the phenotypically distinct condition congenital keratoconjunctivitis sicca and ichthyosiform dermatosis (CKCSID), commonly known as dry eye curly coat syndrome. EF is characterised by episodes of exercise-induced muscular hypertonicity and abnormal posturing, usually occurring after exercise or periods of excitement. CKCSID is a congenital disorder that manifests as a rough coat present at birth, with keratoconjunctivitis sicca apparent on eyelid opening at 10–14 days, followed by hyperkeratinisation of footpads and distortion of nails that develops over the next few months. We undertook a GWAS with 31 EF cases, 23 CKCSID cases, and a common set of 38 controls and identified statistically associated signals for EF and CKCSID on chromosome 7 (Praw 1.9×10−14; Pgenome = 1.0×10−5) and chromosome 13 (Praw 1.2×10−17; Pgenome = 1.0×10−5), respectively. We resequenced both the EF and CKCSID disease-associated regions in just five dogs and identified a 15,724 bp deletion spanning three exons of BCAN associated with EF and a single base-pair exonic deletion in FAM83H associated with CKCSID. Neither BCAN or FAM83H have been associated with equivalent disease phenotypes in any other species, thus demonstrating the ability to use the domestic dog to study the genetic basis of more than one disease simultaneously in a single breed and to identify multiple novel candidate genes in parallel.
PMCID: PMC3257292  PMID: 22253609
13.  Novel origins of copy number variation in the dog genome 
Genome Biology  2012;13(8):R73.
Copy number variants (CNVs) account for substantial variation between genomes and are a major source of normal and pathogenic phenotypic differences. The dog is an ideal model to investigate mutational mechanisms that generate CNVs as its genome lacks a functional ortholog of the PRDM9 gene implicated in recombination and CNV formation in humans. Here we comprehensively assay CNVs using high-density array comparative genomic hybridization in 50 dogs from 17 dog breeds and 3 gray wolves.
We use a stringent new method to identify a total of 430 high-confidence CNV loci, which range in size from 9 kb to 1.6 Mb and span 26.4 Mb, or 1.08%, of the assayed dog genome, overlapping 413 annotated genes. Of CNVs observed in each breed, 98% are also observed in multiple breeds. CNVs predicted to disrupt gene function are significantly less common than expected by chance. We identify a significant overrepresentation of peaks of GC content, previously shown to be enriched in dog recombination hotspots, in the vicinity of CNV breakpoints.
A number of the CNVs identified by this study are candidates for generating breed-specific phenotypes. Purifying selection seems to be a major factor shaping structural variation in the dog genome, suggesting that many CNVs are deleterious. Localized peaks of GC content appear to be novel sites of CNV formation in the dog genome by non-allelic homologous recombination, potentially activated by the loss of PRDM9. These sequence features may have driven genome instability and chromosomal rearrangements throughout canid evolution.
PMCID: PMC4053742  PMID: 22916802
14.  Identification of several small main-effect QTLs and a large number of epistatic QTLs for drought tolerance related traits in groundnut (Arachishypogaea L.) 
Cultivated groundnut or peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.), an allotetraploid (2n = 4x = 40), is a self pollinated and widely grown crop in the semi-arid regions of the world. Improvement of drought tolerance is an important area of research for groundnut breeding programmes. Therefore, for the identification of candidate QTLs for drought tolerance, a comprehensive and refined genetic map containing 191 SSR loci based on a single mapping population (TAG 24 × ICGV 86031), segregating for drought and surrogate traits was developed. Genotyping data and phenotyping data collected for more than ten drought related traits in 2–3 seasons were analyzed in detail for identification of main effect QTLs (M-QTLs) and epistatic QTLs (E-QTLs) using QTL Cartographer, QTLNetwork and Genotype Matrix Mapping (GMM) programmes. A total of 105 M-QTLs with 3.48–33.36% phenotypic variation explained (PVE) were identified using QTL Cartographer, while only 65 M-QTLs with 1.3–15.01% PVE were identified using QTLNetwork. A total of 53 M-QTLs were such which were identified using both programmes. On the other hand, GMM identified 186 (8.54–44.72% PVE) and 63 (7.11–21.13% PVE), three and two loci interactions, whereas only 8 E-QTL interactions with 1.7–8.34% PVE were identified through QTLNetwork. Interestingly a number of co-localized QTLs controlling 2–9 traits were also identified. The identification of few major, many minor M-QTLs and QTL × QTL interactions during the present study confirmed the complex and quantitative nature of drought tolerance in groundnut. This study suggests deployment of modern approaches like marker-assisted recurrent selection or genomic selection instead of marker-assisted backcrossing approach for breeding for drought tolerance in groundnut.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00122-010-1517-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3057011  PMID: 21191568
Peanut; Drought tolerance; Genetic map; Molecular markers; Main-effect QTLs; Epistatic QTLs; Molecular breeding
15.  Restriction site polymorphism-based candidate gene mapping for seedling drought tolerance in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] 
Quantitative trait loci (QTL) studies provide insight into the complexity of drought tolerance mechanisms. Molecular markers used in these studies also allow for marker-assisted selection (MAS) in breeding programs, enabling transfer of genetic factors between breeding lines without complete knowledge of their exact nature. However, potential for recombination between markers and target genes limit the utility of MAS-based strategies. Candidate gene mapping offers an alternative solution to identify trait determinants underlying QTL of interest. Here, we used restriction site polymorphisms to investigate co-location of candidate genes with QTL for seedling drought stress-induced premature senescence identified previously in cowpea. Genomic DNA isolated from 113 F2:8 RILs of drought-tolerant IT93K503-1 and drought susceptible CB46 genotypes was digested with combinations of EcoR1 and HpaII, Mse1, or Msp1 restriction enzymes and amplified with primers designed from 13 drought-responsive cDNAs. JoinMap 3.0 and MapQTL 4.0 software were used to incorporate polymorphic markers onto the AFLP map and to analyze their association with the drought response QTL. Seven markers co-located with peaks of previously identified QTL. Isolation, sequencing, and blast analysis of these markers confirmed their significant homology with drought or other abiotic stress-induced expressed sequence tags (EST) from cowpea and other plant systems. Further, homology with coding sequences for a multidrug resistance protein 3 and a photosystem I assembly protein ycf3 was revealed in two of these candidates. These results provide a platform for the identification and characterization of genetic trait determinants underlying seedling drought tolerance in cowpea.
PMCID: PMC2807941  PMID: 19834655
16.  Application of Genomics Tools to Animal Breeding 
Current Genomics  2012;13(3):207-212.
The main goal in animal breeding is to select individuals that have high breeding values for traits of interest as parents to produce the next generation and to do so as quickly as possible. To date, most programs rely on statistical analysis of large data bases with phenotypes on breeding populations by linear mixed model methodology to estimate breeding values on selection candidates. However, there is a long history of research on the use of genetic markers to identify quantitative trait loci and their use in marker-assisted selection but with limited implementation in practical breeding programs. The advent of high-density SNP genotyping, combined with novel statistical methods for the use of this data to estimate breeding values, has resulted in the recent extensive application of genomic or whole-genome selection in dairy cattle and research to implement genomic selection in other livestock species is underway. The high-density SNP data also provides opportunities to detect QTL and to encover the genetic architecture of quantitative traits, in terms of the distribution of the size of genetic effects that contribute to trait differences in a population. Results show that this genetic architecture differs between traits but that for most traits, over 50% of the genetic variation resides in genomic regions with small effects that are of the order of magnitude that is expected under a highly polygenic model of inheritance.
PMCID: PMC3382275  PMID: 23115522
Animal breeding; quantitative genetics; whole genome association studies; genomic selection.
17.  Epistatic Association Mapping in Homozygous Crop Cultivars 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17773.
The genetic dissection of complex traits plays a crucial role in crop breeding. However, genetic analysis and crop breeding have heretofore been performed separately. In this study, we designed a new approach that integrates epistatic association analysis in crop cultivars with breeding by design. First, we proposed an epistatic association mapping (EAM) approach in homozygous crop cultivars. The phenotypic values of complex traits, along with molecular marker information, were used to perform EAM. In our EAM, all the main-effect quantitative trait loci (QTLs), environmental effects, QTL-by-environment interactions and QTL-by-QTL interactions were included in a full model and estimated by empirical Bayes approach. A series of Monte Carlo simulations was performed to confirm the reliability of the new method. Next, the information from all detected QTLs was used to mine novel alleles for each locus and to design elite cross combination. Finally, the new approach was adopted to dissect the genetic basis of seed length in 215 soybean cultivars obtained, by stratified random sampling, from 6 geographic ecotypes in China. As a result, 19 main-effect QTLs and 3 epistatic QTLs were identified, more than 10 novel alleles were mined and 3 elite parental combinations, such as Daqingdou and Zhengzhou790034, were predicted.
PMCID: PMC3058038  PMID: 21423630
18.  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
19.  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
20.  Genetic variation in two conserved local Romanian pig breeds using type 1 DNA markers 
Analysis of the genetic variation of an endangered population is an important component for the success of conservation. Animals from two local Romanian pig breeds, the Mangalitsa and Bazna, were analysed for variation at a number of genetic loci using PCR-based DNA tests. Polymorphism was assessed at loci which 1) are known to cause phenotypic variation, 2) are potentially involved in trait differences or 3) are putative candidate genes. The traits considered are disease resistance, growth, coat colour, meat quality and prolificacy. Even though the populations are small and the markers are limited to specific genes, we found significant differences in five of the ten characterised loci. In some cases the observed allele frequencies were interesting in relation to gene function and the phenotype of the breed. These breeds are part of a conservation programme in Romania and marker information may be useful in preserving a representative gene pool in the populations. The use of polymorphisms in type 1 (gene) markers may be a useful complement to analysis based on anonymous markers.
PMCID: PMC2705414  PMID: 11559484
pig; genetic diversity; local breeds
21.  Genetic approaches to study aging in Drosophila melanogaster 
Age  2005;27(3):165-182.
The process of aging can be described as a progressive decline in an organism's function that invariably results in death. This decline results from the activities of intrinsic genetic factors within an organism. The relative contributions of the biological and environmental components to senescence are hard to measure, however different strategies have been devised in Drosophila melanogaster to isolate and identify genetic influences on aging. These strategies include selective breeding, quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping and single gene mutant analysis. Selective breeding effectively demonstrated a genetic, heritable component to aging while QTL mapping located regions within the Drosophila genome carrying loci that influence the aging process. Within the past decade, single gene mutant analysis has facilitated the identification of specific genes whose activities play a determinative role in Drosophila aging. This review will focus on the application of selective breeding, QTL mapping and single gene mutant analysis used in Drosophila to study aging as well as the results obtained through these strategies to date.
PMCID: PMC3458491  PMID: 23598651
biomarkers; enhancer-trap; functional senescence; gene expression; longevity; microarray; QTL mapping; selective breeding; stress; UAS/GAL4
22.  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
23.  From QTL to QTN: Candidate Gene Set Approach and a Case Study in Porcine IGF1-FoxO Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53452.
Unraveling the genetic background of economic traits is a major goal in modern animal genetics and breeding. Both candidate gene analysis and QTL mapping have previously been used for identifying genes and chromosome regions related to studied traits. However, most of these studies may be limited in their ability to fully consider how multiple genetic factors may influence a particular phenotype of interest. If possible, taking advantage of the combined effect of multiple genetic factors is expected to be more powerful than analyzing single sites, as the joint action of multiple loci within a gene or across multiple genes acting in the same gene set will likely have a greater influence on phenotypic variation. Thus, we proposed a pipeline of gene set analysis that utilized information from multiple loci to improve statistical power. We assessed the performance of this approach by both simulated and a real IGF1-FoxO pathway data set. The results showed that our new method can identify the association between genetic variation and phenotypic variation with higher statistical power and unravel the mechanisms of complex traits in a point of gene set. Additionally, the proposed pipeline is flexible to be extended to model complex genetic structures that include the interactions between different gene sets and between gene sets and environments.
PMCID: PMC3544924  PMID: 23341942
24.  Genetic Mapping and Characteristics of Genes Specifically or Preferentially Expressed during Fiber Development in Cotton 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54444.
Cotton fiber is an ideal model to study cell elongation and cell wall construction in plants. During fiber development, some genes and proteins have been reported to be specifically or preferentially expressed. Mapping of them will reveal the genomic distribution of these genes, and will facilitate selection in cotton breeding. Based on previous reports, we designed 331 gene primers and 164 protein primers, and used single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) to map and integrate them into our interspecific BC1 linkage map. This resulted in the mapping of 57 loci representing 51 genes or proteins on 22 chromosomes. For those three markers which were tightly linked with quantitative trait loci (QTLs), the QTL functions obtained in this study and gene functions reported in previous reports were consistent. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of 52 polymorphic functional primers showed that 21 gene primers and 17 protein primers had differential expression between Emian22 (Gossypium hirsutum) and 3–79 (G. barbadense). Both RT-PCR and quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) analyses of the three markers tightly linked with QTLs were consistent with QTL analysis and field experiments. Gene Ontology (GO) categorization revealed that almost all 51 mapped genes belonged to multiple categories that contribute to fiber development, indicating that fiber development is a complex process regulated by various genes. These 51 genes were all specifically or preferentially expressed during fiber cell elongation and secondary wall biosynthesis. Therefore, these functional gene-related markers would be beneficial for the genetic improvement of cotton fiber length and strength.
PMCID: PMC3555819  PMID: 23372723
25.  An Improved Canine Genome and a Comprehensive Catalogue of Coding Genes and Non-Coding Transcripts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91172.
The domestic dog, Canis familiaris, is a well-established model system for mapping trait and disease loci. While the original draft sequence was of good quality, gaps were abundant particularly in promoter regions of the genome, negatively impacting the annotation and study of candidate genes. Here, we present an improved genome build, canFam3.1, which includes 85 MB of novel sequence and now covers 99.8% of the euchromatic portion of the genome. We also present multiple RNA-Sequencing data sets from 10 different canine tissues to catalog ∼175,000 expressed loci. While about 90% of the coding genes previously annotated by EnsEMBL have measurable expression in at least one sample, the number of transcript isoforms detected by our data expands the EnsEMBL annotations by a factor of four. Syntenic comparison with the human genome revealed an additional ∼3,000 loci that are characterized as protein coding in human and were also expressed in the dog, suggesting that those were previously not annotated in the EnsEMBL canine gene set. In addition to ∼20,700 high-confidence protein coding loci, we found ∼4,600 antisense transcripts overlapping exons of protein coding genes, ∼7,200 intergenic multi-exon transcripts without coding potential, likely candidates for long intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) and ∼11,000 transcripts were reported by two different library construction methods but did not fit any of the above categories. Of the lincRNAs, about 6,000 have no annotated orthologs in human or mouse. Functional analysis of two novel transcripts with shRNA in a mouse kidney cell line altered cell morphology and motility. All in all, we provide a much-improved annotation of the canine genome and suggest regulatory functions for several of the novel non-coding transcripts.
PMCID: PMC3953330  PMID: 24625832

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