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1.  Commonalities in Development of Pure Breeds and Population Isolates Revealed in the Genome of the Sardinian Fonni's Dog 
Genetics  2016;204(2):737-755.
The island inhabitants of Sardinia have long been a focus for studies of complex human traits due to their unique ancestral background and population isolation reflecting geographic and cultural restriction. Population isolates share decreased genomic diversity, increased linkage disequilibrium, and increased inbreeding coefficients. In many regions, dogs and humans have been exposed to the same natural and artificial forces of environment, growth, and migration. Distinct dog breeds have arisen through human-driven selection of characteristics to meet an ideal standard of appearance and function. The Fonni’s Dog, an endemic dog population on Sardinia, has not been subjected to an intensive system of artificial selection, but rather has developed alongside the human population of Sardinia, influenced by geographic isolation and unregulated selection based on its environmental adaptation and aptitude for owner-desired behaviors. Through analysis of 28 dog breeds, represented with whole-genome sequences from 13 dogs and ∼170,000 genome-wide single nucleotide variants from 155 dogs, we have produced a genomic illustration of the Fonni’s Dog. Genomic patterns confirm within-breed similarity, while population and demographic analyses provide spatial identity of Fonni’s Dog to other Mediterranean breeds. Investigation of admixture and fixation indices reveals insights into the involvement of Fonni’s Dogs in breed development throughout the Mediterranean. We describe how characteristics of population isolates are reflected in dog breeds that have undergone artificial selection, and are mirrored in the Fonni’s Dog through traditional isolating factors that affect human populations. Lastly, we show that the genetic history of Fonni’s Dog parallels demographic events in local human populations.
PMCID: PMC5068859  PMID: 27519604
dog; whole-genome sequence; demography; population structure
2.  Homologous Mutation to Human BRAF V600E is Common in Naturally Occurring Canine Bladder Cancer—Evidence for a Relevant Model System and Urine-based Diagnostic Test 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2015;13(6):993-1002.
Targeted cancer therapies offer great clinical promise, but treatment resistance is common, and basic research aimed at overcoming this challenge is limited by reduced genomic and biological complexity in artificially induced rodent tumors compared to their human counterparts. Animal models that more faithfully recapitulate genotype-specific human pathology could improve the predictive value of these investigations. Here, a newly identified animal model for oncogenic BRAF-driven cancers is described. With 20,000 new cases in the United States each year, canine invasive transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder (InvTCC) is a common, naturally occurring malignancy that shares significant histological, biological, and clinical phenotypes with human muscle invasive bladder cancer. In order to identify somatic drivers of canine InvTCC, the complete transcriptome for multiple tumors was determined by RNAseq. All tumors harbored a somatic mutation that is homologous to the human BRAF(V600E) mutation, and an identical mutation was present in 87% of 62 additional canine InvTCC tumors. The mutation was also detectable in the urine sediments of all dogs tested with mutation-positive tumors. Functional experiments suggest that, like human tumors, canine activating BRAF mutations potently stimulate the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Cell lines with the mutation have elevated levels of phosphorylated MEK, compared to a line with wild type BRAF. This effect can be diminished through application of the BRAF(V600E) inhibitor vemurafenib. These findings set the stage for canine InvTCC as a powerful system to evaluate BRAF-targeted therapies, as well as therapies designed to overcome resistance, which could enhance treatment of both human and canine cancers
PMCID: PMC4470794  PMID: 25767210
Bladder Cancer; BRAF Mutation; Comparative Oncology; Canine Cancer
3.  Demographically-Based Evaluation of Genomic Regions under Selection in Domestic Dogs 
PLoS Genetics  2016;12(3):e1005851.
Controlling for background demographic effects is important for accurately identifying loci that have recently undergone positive selection. To date, the effects of demography have not yet been explicitly considered when identifying loci under selection during dog domestication. To investigate positive selection on the dog lineage early in the domestication, we examined patterns of polymorphism in six canid genomes that were previously used to infer a demographic model of dog domestication. Using an inferred demographic model, we computed false discovery rates (FDR) and identified 349 outlier regions consistent with positive selection at a low FDR. The signals in the top 100 regions were frequently centered on candidate genes related to brain function and behavior, including LHFPL3, CADM2, GRIK3, SH3GL2, MBP, PDE7B, NTAN1, and GLRA1. These regions contained significant enrichments in behavioral ontology categories. The 3rd top hit, CCRN4L, plays a major role in lipid metabolism, that is supported by additional metabolism related candidates revealed in our scan, including SCP2D1 and PDXC1. Comparing our method to an empirical outlier approach that does not directly account for demography, we found only modest overlaps between the two methods, with 60% of empirical outliers having no overlap with our demography-based outlier detection approach. Demography-aware approaches have lower-rates of false discovery. Our top candidates for selection, in addition to expanding the set of neurobehavioral candidate genes, include genes related to lipid metabolism, suggesting a dietary target of selection that was important during the period when proto-dogs hunted and fed alongside hunter-gatherers.
Author Summary
Identification of the genomic regions under selection during dog domestication is extremely challenging because the demographic fluctuations associated with domestication can produce signals in polymorphism data that mimic those imposed by selective sweeps. We perform the first analysis of selection on the dog lineage that explicitly incorporates a demographic model, that by controlling for the rate of false discovery, more robustly identifies targets of selection. To do so, we conduct a selection scan using three wolf genomes representing the putative centers of dog domestication, two basal dog breeds (Basenji and Dingo), and a golden jackal as outgroup, for which we previously inferred a demographic model. We find that our demographically informed analyses filters out many signals that would be otherwise classified as putative selection signals under an empirical outlier approach. We identify 68 regions of the genome that have likely experienced positive selection. Besides identifying a number of new neurobehavioral candidate genes, our candidate regions contain genes related to lipid metabolism, including CCRN4L, which is centered in the 3rd ranked region. This suggests a previously unreported locus of dietary adaptation, potentially due to the change in diet composition as hunting efficiency increased when proto dogs began hunting alongside hunter-gatherers.
PMCID: PMC4778760  PMID: 26943675
4.  Genomic Analyses of Modern Dog Breeds 
A rose may be a rose by any other name, but when you call a dog a poodle it becomes a very different animal than if you call it a bulldog. Both the poodle and the bulldog are examples of dog breeds of which there are >400 recognized world-wide. Breed creation has played a significant role in shaping the modern dog from the length of his leg to the cadence of his bark. The selection and line-breeding required to maintain a breed has also reshaped the genome of the dog resulting in a unique genetic pattern for each breed. The breed-based population structure combined with extensive morphologic variation and shared human environments have made the dog a popular model for mapping both simple and complex traits and diseases. In order to obtain the most benefit from the dog as a genetic system, it is necessary to understand the effect structured breeding has had on the genome of the species. That is best achieved by looking at genomic analyses of the breeds, their histories, and their relationships to each other.
PMCID: PMC3559126  PMID: 22231497
5.  Canine Genomics and Genetics: Running with the Pack 
PLoS Genetics  2005;1(5):e58.
The domestication of the dog from its wolf ancestors is perhaps the most complex genetic experiment in history, and certainly the most extensive. Beginning with the wolf, man has created dog breeds that are hunters or herders, big or small, lean or squat, and independent or loyal. Most breeds were established in the 1800s by dog fanciers, using a small number of founders that featured traits of particular interest. Popular sire effects, population bottlenecks, and strict breeding programs designed to expand populations with desirable traits led to the development of what are now closed breeding populations, with limited phenotypic and genetic heterogeneity, but which are ideal for genetic dissection of complex traits. In this review, we first discuss the advances in mapping and sequencing that accelerated the field in recent years. We then highlight findings of interest related to disease gene mapping and population structure. Finally, we summarize novel results on the genetics of morphologic variation.
PMCID: PMC1287952  PMID: 16311623
6.  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
7.  A Copy Number Variant at the KITLG Locus Likely Confers Risk for Canine Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Digit 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003409.
The domestic dog is a robust model for studying the genetics of complex disease susceptibility. The strategies used to develop and propagate modern breeds have resulted in an elevated risk for specific diseases in particular breeds. One example is that of Standard Poodles (STPOs), who have increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma of the digit (SCCD), a locally aggressive cancer that causes lytic bone lesions, sometimes with multiple toe recurrence. However, only STPOs of dark coat color are at high risk; light colored STPOs are almost entirely unaffected, suggesting that interactions between multiple pathways are necessary for oncogenesis. We performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on STPOs, comparing 31 SCCD cases to 34 unrelated black STPO controls. The peak SNP on canine chromosome 15 was statistically significant at the genome-wide level (Praw = 1.60×10−7; Pgenome = 0.0066). Additional mapping resolved the region to the KIT Ligand (KITLG) locus. Comparison of STPO cases to other at-risk breeds narrowed the locus to a 144.9-Kb region. Haplotype mapping among 84 STPO cases identified a minimal region of 28.3 Kb. A copy number variant (CNV) containing predicted enhancer elements was found to be strongly associated with SCCD in STPOs (P = 1.72×10−8). Light colored STPOs carry the CNV risk alleles at the same frequency as black STPOs, but are not susceptible to SCCD. A GWAS comparing 24 black and 24 light colored STPOs highlighted only the MC1R locus as significantly different between the two datasets, suggesting that a compensatory mutation within the MC1R locus likely protects light colored STPOs from disease. Our findings highlight a role for KITLG in SCCD susceptibility, as well as demonstrate that interactions between the KITLG and MC1R loci are potentially required for SCCD oncogenesis. These findings highlight how studies of breed-limited diseases are useful for disentangling multigene disorders.
Author Summary
Domesticated dogs offer a unique mechanism for disentangling complex genetic traits, such as cancer. Over 300 breeds exist worldwide, each selected for particular morphologic and behavioral traits. Unfortunately the breeding programs used to generate such diversity are associated with breed-specific increase in disease. Squamous cell carcinoma of the digit (SCCD) is a locally aggressive cancer that causes lytic bone lesions and, occasionally, death. Among the breeds with the highest risk is the Standard Poodle (STPO), where the disease is found only in dark-coated dogs. We show that the KITLG locus is highly associated with SCCD and that a 5.7-Kb copy number variant is likely causative for the disease when in an expanded form. Interestingly, light-colored STPO carry the putative causal variant at the same frequency as black STPOs, but are protected from SCCD. We show this is likely due to a compensatory mutation in the well-known coat color locus, MC1R. This work demonstrates the utility of dog breeds for understanding the genetic causes of complex diseases of interest to both human and animal health.
PMCID: PMC3610924  PMID: 23555311
8.  Myxomatous mitral valve disease in dogs: Does size matter? 
Myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD) is the most commonly diagnosed cardiovascular disease in the dog accounting for more than 70% of all cardiovascular disease in dogs. As are most canine diseases with genetic underpinnings, risk of MMVD is greatly increased in a subset of breeds. What is uncommon is that the vast majority of the breeds at elevated risk for MMVD are small or toy breeds with average adult weights under 9 kg. These breeds appear to have little in common other than their diminutive size. In the following review we propose a number of mechanisms by which relatively unrelated small breeds may have developed a predisposition for chronic valvular disorders. Although factors such as age are key in the expression of MMVD, taking a comprehensive look at the commonalities, as well as the differences, between the susceptible breeds may assist in finding the causal variants responsible for MMVD and translating them to improved treatments for both dogs and humans.
PMCID: PMC3307894  PMID: 22356836
Canine genetics; degenerative valve disease; canine phenotype; dog breeds
9.  Finding Cardiovascular Disease Genes in the Dog 
Recent advances in canine genomics are changing the landscape of veterinary biology, and by default, veterinary medicine. No longer are clinicians locked into traditional methods of diagnoses and therapy. Rather major advances in canine genetics and genomics from the past five years are now changing the way the veterinarian of the 21st century practices medicine.
First, the availability of a dense genome map gives canine genetics a much needed foothold in comparative medicine, allowing advances made in human and mouse genetics to be applied to companion animals. Second, the recently released 7.5x whole genome sequence of the dog is facilitating the identification of hereditary disease genes. Finally, development of genetic tools for rapid screening of families and populations at risk for inherited disease means that the cost of identifying and testing for disease loci will significantly decrease in coming years.
Out of these advances will come major changes in companion animal diagnostics and therapy. Clinicians will be able to offer their clients genetic testing and counseling for a myriad of disorders. Such advances are certain to generate healthier and more long lived dogs, improving quality of life for owner and pet alike. The clinician of the 21st century, therefore, faces incredible opportunities as well as challenges in the management of genetic disease. In this review we summarize recent findings in canine genomics and discuss their application to the study of canine cardiac health.
PMCID: PMC3559124  PMID: 19083345
inherited disease; genome; canine; cardiac; heart
10.  Molecular Genetic Analysis of a Putative Domestic Dog Clone 
Nature  2006;440(7081):E1-E2.
PMCID: PMC3559127  PMID: 16525421
11.  The MTAP-CDKN2A Locus Confers Susceptibility to a Naturally Occurring Canine Cancer 
Advantages offered by canine population substructure, combined with clinical presentations similar to human disorders, makes the dog an attractive system for studies of cancer genetics. Cancers that have been difficult to study in human families or populations are of particular interest. Histiocytic sarcoma is a rare and poorly understood neoplasm in humans that occurs in 15–25% of Bernese Mountain Dogs (BMD).
Genomic DNA was collected from affected and unaffected BMD in North America (NA) and Europe. Both independent and combined genome wide association studies (GWAS) were used to identify cancer-associated loci. Fine mapping and sequencing narrowed the primary locus to a single gene region.
Both populations shared the same primary locus, which features a single haplotype spanning MTAP and part of CDKN2A and is present in 96% of affected BMD. The haplotype is within the region homologous to human chromosome 9p21, which has been implicated in several types of cancer.
We present the first GWAS for HS in any species. The data identify an associated haplotype in the highly cited tumor suppressor locus near CDKN2A. These data demonstrate the power of studying distinctive malignancies in highly predisposed dog breeds.
Here, we establish a naturally-occurring model of cancer susceptibility due to CDKN2 dysregulation, thus providing insight regarding this cancer-associated, complex, and poorly understood genomic region.
PMCID: PMC3392365  PMID: 22623710
Genome Wide Association Study; Dogs; p16; Cancer; Histiocytic sarcoma
12.  Subcutaneous 5-Azacitidine Treatment of Naturally Occurring Canine Urothelial Carcinoma: A Novel Epigenetic Approach to Human Urothelial Carcinoma Drug Development 
The Journal of urology  2011;187(1):302-309.
We determined the efficacy, biological activity, pharmacokinetics and safety of the hypomethylating agent 5-azacitidine (Celgene Corp., Summit, New Jersey) in dogs with naturally occurring invasive urothelial carcinoma.
Materials and Methods
We performed a preclinical phase I trial in dogs with naturally occurring invasive urothelial carcinoma to examine once daily subcutaneous administration of 5-azacitidine in 28-day cycles at doses of 0.10 to 0.30 mg/kg per day according to 2 dose schedules, including days 1 to 5 (28-day cohort) or days 1 to 5 and 15 to 19 (14-day cohort). Clinical efficacy was assessed by serial cystosonography, radiography and cystoscopy. Urinary 5-azacitidine pharmacokinetic analysis was also done. Pretreatment and posttreatment peripheral blood mononuclear cell and invasive urothelial carcinoma DNA, respectively, was analyzed for global and gene specific [CDKN2A (p14ARF)] methylation changes.
Enrolled in the study were 19 dogs with naturally occurring invasive urothelial carcinoma. In the 28-day cohort the maximum tolerated dose was 0.20 mg/kg per day with higher doses resulting in grade 3 or 4 neutropenia in 4 of 6 dogs. In the 14-day cohort the maximum tolerated dose was 0.10 mg/kg per day with grade 3 or 4 neutropenia seen in 2 of 3 dogs treated at higher doses. No grade 3 or 4 nonhematological toxicity was observed during either dosing schedule. Of 18 dogs evaluable for tumor response partial remission, stable disease and progressive disease were observed in 4 (22.2%), 9 (50.0%) and 4 (22.2%), respectively. Consistent 5-azacitidine levels (205 to 857 ng/ml) were detected in urine. Pretreatment and posttreatment methylation analysis revealed no significant correlation with clinical response.
Subcutaneous 5-azacitidine showed promising clinical activity in a canine invasive urothelial carcinoma model, thus meriting further development in humans with urothelial carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3508763  PMID: 22099988
urinary bladder; urothelium; carcinoma; azacitidine; dogs
13.  Genome-wide SNP and haplotype analyses reveal a rich history underlying dog domestication 
Nature  2010;464(7290):898-902.
Advances in genome technology have facilitated a new understanding of the historical and genetic processes crucial to rapid phenotypic evolution under domestication1,2. To understand the process of dog diversification better, we conducted an extensive genome-wide survey of more than 48,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms in dogs and their wild progenitor, the grey wolf. Here we show that dog breeds share a higher proportion of multi-locus haplotypes unique to grey wolves from the Middle East, indicating that they are a dominant source of genetic diversity for dogs rather than wolves from east Asia, as suggested by mitochondrial DNA sequence data3. Furthermore, we find a surprising correspondence between genetic and phenotypic/functional breed groupings but there are exceptions that suggest phenotypic diversification depended in part on the repeated crossing of individuals with novel phenotypes. Our results show that Middle Eastern wolves were a critical source of genome diversity, although interbreeding with local wolf populations clearly occurred elsewhere in the early history of specific lineages. More recently, the evolution of modern dog breeds seems to have been an iterative process that drew on a limited genetic toolkit to create remarkable phenotypic diversity.
PMCID: PMC3494089  PMID: 20237475
14.  Man’s Best Friend Becomes Biology’s Best in Show: Genome Analyses in the Domestic Dog* 
Annual Review of Genetics  2010;44:309-336.
In the last five years, canine genetics has gone from map construction to complex disease deconstruction. The availability of a draft canine genome sequence, dense marker chips, and an understanding of the genome architecture has changed the types of studies canine geneticists can undertake. There is now a clear recognition that the dog system offers the opportunity to understand the genetics of both simple and complex traits, including those associated with morphology, disease susceptibility, and behavior.
In this review, we summarize recent findings regarding canine domestication and review new information on the organization of the canine genome. We discuss studies aimed at finding genes controlling morphological phenotypes and provide examples of the way such paradigms may be applied to studies of behavior. We also discuss the many ways in which the dog has illuminated our understanding of human disease and conclude with a discussion on where the field is likely headed in the next five years.
PMCID: PMC3322674  PMID: 21047261
GWAS; linkage disequilibrium; genomics; canine; domestication; complex traits
15.  Breed-Specific Ancestry Studies and Genome-Wide Association Analysis Highlight an Association Between the MYH9 Gene and Heat Tolerance in Alaskan Sprint Racing Sled Dogs 
Mammalian Genome  2011;23(1-2):178-194.
Alaskan sled dogs are a genetically distinct population shaped by generations of selective interbreeding with purebred dogs to create a group of high performance athletes. As a result of selective breeding strategies, sled dogs present a unique opportunity to employ admixture-mapping techniques to investigate how breed composition and trait selection impact genomic structure. We used admixture mapping to investigate genetic ancestry across the genomes of two classes of sled dogs, sprint and long distance racers, and combined that with genome wide association studies (GWAS) to identify regions correlating with performance enhancing traits. The sled dog genome is enhanced by differential contributions from four non-admixed breeds (Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Borzoi). A principle components analysis (PCA) of 115,000 genome-wide SNPs clearly resolved the sprint and distance populations as distinct genetic groups, with longer blocks of linkage disequilibrium (LD) observed in the distance versus sprint dogs (7.5–10 and 2.5–3.75 kb, respectively). Further, we identified eight regions with the genomic signal either from a selective sweep or an association analysis, corroborated by an excess of ancestry when comparing sprint and distance dogs. A comparison of elite and poor performing sled dogs identified a single region significantly association with heat tolerance. Within the region we identified seven SNPs within the myosin heavy chain 9 gene (MYH9) that were significantly associated with heat tolerance in sprint dogs, two of which correspond to conserved promoter and enhancer regions in the human ortholog.
PMCID: PMC3320045  PMID: 22105876
canine; admixture; attributes; GWAS
16.  An Insertion in the RSPO2 Gene Correlates with Improper Coat in the Portuguese Water Dog 
Journal of Heredity  2010;101(5):612-617.
We recently showed that genes at 3 loci account for the majority of variation in canine fur. Allelic variation at genes controlling length of fur, texture, and curl is responsible for the striking phenotypic variety observed among purebred dogs in the United States today. In this paper, we investigate the phenomenon of “improper coat” (IC) or a coat that is not typical of the breed. IC is occasionally observed among specific breeds, such as the Portuguese Water Dog (PWD), and is characterized by short hair on the head, face, and lower legs, rather than a thick and even coat covering the whole body. The IC is reminiscent of that observed on the curly or flat-coated retriever, thus making such dogs unable to compete effectively in conformation events. We have found that the presence of the wild-type allele, rather than the expected variant allele at the R-spondin 2 (RSPO2) gene, accounts for this phenotype. The development of a genetic test that distinguishes these 2 allelic types would allow breeders to easily avoid producing PWD with ICs.
PMCID: PMC2908740  PMID: 20562213
fur; furnishings; genetics; morphology; mutation
18.  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
19.  A genetic dissection of breed composition and performance enhancement in the Alaskan sled dog 
BMC Genetics  2010;11:71.
The Alaskan sled dog offers a rare opportunity to investigate the development of a dog breed based solely on performance, rather than appearance, thus setting the breed apart from most others. Several established breeds, many of which are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), have been introduced into the sled dog population to enhance racing performance. We have used molecular methods to ascertain the constitutive breeds used to develop successful sled dog lines, and in doing so, determined the breed origins of specific performance-related behaviors.
One hundred and ninety-nine Alaskan sled dogs were genotyped using 96 microsatellite markers that span the canine genome. These data were compared to that from 141 similarly genotyped purebred dog breeds. Sled dogs were evaluated for breed composition based on a variety of performance phenotypes including speed, endurance and work ethic, and the data stratified based on population structure.
We observe that the Alaskan sled dog has a unique molecular signature and that the genetic profile is sufficient for identifying dogs bred for sprint versus distance. When evaluating contributions of existing breeds we find that the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky contributions are associated with enhanced endurance; Pointer and Saluki are associated with enhanced speed and the Anatolian Shepherd demonstrates a positive influence on work ethic.
We have established a genetic breed profile for the Alaskan sled dog, identified profile variance between sprint and distance dogs, and established breeds associated with enhanced performance attributes. These data set the stage for mapping studies aimed at finding genes that are associated with athletic attributes integral to the high performing Alaskan sled dog.
PMCID: PMC2920855  PMID: 20649949
20.  Coat Variation in the Domestic Dog Is Governed by Variants in Three Genes 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;326(5949):150-153.
Coat color and type are essential characteristics of domestic dog breeds. Although the genetic basis of coat color has been well characterized, relatively little is known about the genes influencing coat growth pattern, length, and curl. We performed genome-wide association studies of more than 1000 dogs from 80 domestic breeds to identify genes associated with canine fur phenotypes. Taking advantage of both inter- and intrabreed variability, we identified distinct mutations in three genes, RSPO2, FGF5, and KRT71 (encoding R-spondin–2, fibroblast growth factor–5, and keratin-71, respectively), that together account for most coat phenotypes in purebred dogs in the United States. Thus, an array of varied and seemingly complex phenotypes can be reduced to the combinatorial effects of only a few genes.
PMCID: PMC2897713  PMID: 19713490
21.  Epidemiology, Pathology, and Genetics of Histiocytic Sarcoma in the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed 
Journal of Heredity  2009;100(Suppl 1):S19-S27.
Histiocytic sarcoma (HS) refers to a highly aggressive and frequently disseminated neoplastic disease belonging to the class of canine histiocytic proliferative disorders. Disseminated HS (previously called malignant histiocytosis) is highly breed specific, with Bernese mountain dogs (BMDs), rottweilers, and retrievers having a high prevalence with a frequency of approximately 25% in the BMD breed. We collected DNA samples and clinical information from 800 BMDs, of which 200 are affected by HS. To better characterize the physiopathology and epidemiology, an in-depth analysis of 89 BMD cases has been performed. The mean age of onset was 6.5 years, males and females being equally affected. The clinical features, biochemical parameters, and pathological features have been determined. The life span after diagnosis has been estimated to be 49 days. A large BMD pedigree of 327 dogs, 121 of which are affected, was assembled. Using a subset of 160 BMDs, encompassing 21 complete sibships, we now propose an oligogenic transmission mode of the disease. Whole-genome linkage scans as well as association studies using a case/control analysis, in parallel with expression profiling of neoplastic versus normal histiocytes, are all underway. Altogether, these complementary approaches are expected to localize the genes for HS in the BMD, leading to advances in our knowledge of histiocyte diseases in dogs and humans.
PMCID: PMC3139364  PMID: 19531730
Bernese mountain dogs; cancer; dog; genetics; histiocytic sarcoma
22.  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
23.  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
24.  Population genomics of the inbred Scandinavian wolf 
Molecular ecology  2009;18(7):1341-1351.
The Scandinavian wolf population represents one of the genetically most well characterized examples of a severely bottlenecked natural population (with only two founders), and of how the addition of new genetic material (one immigrant) can at least temporarily provide a “genetic rescue”. However, inbreeding depression has been observed in this population and in the absence of additional immigrants, its long-term viability is questioned. To study the effects of inbreeding and selection on genomic diversity, we performed a genomic scan with approximately 250 microsatellite markers distributed across all autosomes and the X chromosome. We found linkage disequilibrium (LD) that extended up to distances of 50 Mb, exceeding that of most outbreeding species studied thus far. LD was particularly pronounced on the X chromosome. Overall levels of observed genomic heterozygosity did not deviate significantly from simulations based on known population history, giving no support for a general selection for heterozygotes. However, we found evidence supporting balancing selection at a number of loci and also evidence suggesting directional selection at other loci. For markers on chromosome 23, the signal of selection was particularly strong indicating that purifying selection against deleterious alleles may have occurred even in this very small population. These data suggest that population genomics allows the exploration of the effects of neutral and non-neutral evolution on a finer scale than what has previously been possible.
PMCID: PMC2747086  PMID: 19368642
heterozygosity; genome scan; linkage disequilibrium; inbreeding; conservation genetics
25.  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

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