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1.  Disease severity in a mouse model of ataxia telangiectasia is modulated by the DNA damage checkpoint gene Hus1 
Human Molecular Genetics  2012;21(15):3408-3420.
The human genomic instability syndrome ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), caused by mutations in the gene encoding the DNA damage checkpoint kinase ATM, is characterized by multisystem defects including neurodegeneration, immunodeficiency and increased cancer predisposition. ATM is central to a pathway that responds to double-strand DNA breaks, whereas the related kinase ATR leads a parallel signaling cascade that is activated by replication stress. To dissect the physiological relationship between the ATM and ATR pathways, we generated mice defective for both. Because complete ATR pathway inactivation causes embryonic lethality, we weakened the ATR mechanism to different degrees by impairing HUS1, a member of the 911 complex that is required for efficient ATR signaling. Notably, simultaneous ATM and HUS1 defects caused synthetic lethality. Atm/Hus1 double-mutant embryos showed widespread apoptosis and died mid-gestationally. Despite the underlying DNA damage checkpoint defects, increased DNA damage signaling was observed, as evidenced by H2AX phosphorylation and p53 accumulation. A less severe Hus1 defect together with Atm loss resulted in partial embryonic lethality, with the surviving double-mutant mice showing synergistic increases in genomic instability and specific developmental defects, including dwarfism, craniofacial abnormalities and brachymesophalangy, phenotypes that are observed in several human genomic instability disorders. In addition to identifying tissue-specific consequences of checkpoint dysfunction, these data highlight a robust, cooperative configuration for the mammalian DNA damage response network and further suggest HUS1 and related genes in the ATR pathway as candidate modifiers of disease severity in A-T patients.
PMCID: PMC3392115  PMID: 22575700
2.  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
3.  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
4.  DOG-SPOT database for comprehensive management of dog genetic research data 
Research laboratories studying the genetics of companion animals have no database tools specifically designed to aid in the management of the many kinds of data that are generated, stored and analyzed. We have developed a relational database, "DOG-SPOT," to provide such a tool. Implemented in MS-Access, the database is easy to extend or customize to suit a lab's particular needs. With DOG-SPOT a lab can manage data relating to dogs, breeds, samples, biomaterials, phenotypes, owners, communications, amplicons, sequences, markers, genotypes and personnel. Such an integrated data structure helps ensure high quality data entry and makes it easy to track physical stocks of biomaterials and oligonucleotides.
PMCID: PMC3009958  PMID: 21159202
7.  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
8.  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
9.  An Expressed Fgf4 Retrogene Is Associated with Breed-Defining Chondrodysplasia in Domestic Dogs 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;325(5943):995-998.
Retrotransposition of processed mRNAs is a frequent source of novel sequence acquired during the evolution of genomes. The vast majority of retroposed gene copies are inactive pseudogenes that rapidly acquire mutations that disrupt the reading frame, while precious few are conserved to become new genes. Utilizing a multi-breed association analysis in the domestic dog, we demonstrate that a recently acquired fgf4 retrogene causes chondrodysplasia, a short-legged phenotype that defines several common dog breeds including the dachshund, corgi and basset hound. The discovery that a single evolutionary event underlies a breed-defining phenotype for 19 diverse dog breeds demonstrates the importance of unique mutational events in constraining and directing phenotypic diversity in the domestic dog.
PMCID: PMC2748762  PMID: 19608863
10.  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
11.  Genetic architecture of the dog: sexual size dimorphism and functional morphology 
Trends in genetics : TIG  2006;22(10):537-544.
Purebred dogs are a valuable resource for genetic analysis of quantitative traits. Quantitative traits are complex, controlled by many genes that are contained within regions of the genome known as quantitative trait loci (QTL). The genetic architecture of quantitative traits is defined by the characteristics of these genes: their number, the magnitude of their effects, their positions in the genome and their interactions with each other. QTL analysis is a valuable tool for exploring genetic architecture, and highlighting regions of the genome that contribute to the variation of a trait within a population.
PMCID: PMC2785546  PMID: 16934357
12.  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
13.  A Mutation in the Myostatin Gene Increases Muscle Mass and Enhances Racing Performance in Heterozygote Dogs 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(5):e79.
Double muscling is a trait previously described in several mammalian species including cattle and sheep and is caused by mutations in the myostatin (MSTN) gene (previously referred to as GDF8). Here we describe a new mutation in MSTN found in the whippet dog breed that results in a double-muscled phenotype known as the “bully” whippet. Individuals with this phenotype carry two copies of a two-base-pair deletion in the third exon of MSTN leading to a premature stop codon at amino acid 313. Individuals carrying only one copy of the mutation are, on average, more muscular than wild-type individuals (p = 7.43 × 10−6; Kruskal-Wallis Test) and are significantly faster than individuals carrying the wild-type genotype in competitive racing events (Kendall's nonparametric measure, τ = 0.3619; p ≈ 0.00028). These results highlight the utility of performance-enhancing polymorphisms, marking the first time a mutation in MSTN has been quantitatively linked to increased athletic performance.
Author Summary
An individual's genetic profile can play a role in defining their natural skills and talents. The canine species presents an excellent system in which to find such associative genes. The purebred dog has a long history of selective breeding, which has produced specific breeds of extraordinary strength, intelligence, and speed. We have discovered a mutation in the canine myostatin gene, a negative regulator of muscle mass, which affects muscle composition, and hence racing speed, in whippets. Dogs that possess a single copy of this mutation are more muscled than normal and are among the fastest dogs in competitive racing events. However, dogs with two copies of the same mutation are grossly overmuscled, superficially resembling double-muscled cattle known to possess similar mutations. This result is the first to quantitatively link a mutation in the myostatin gene to athletic performance. Further, it emphasizes what is sure to be a growing area of research for performance-enhancing polymorphisms in competitive athletics. Future implications include screening for myostatin mutations among elite athletes. However, as little is known about the health issues and potential risks associated with being a myostatin-mutation carrier, research in this arena should proceed with extreme caution.
PMCID: PMC1877876  PMID: 17530926

Results 1-13 (13)