Three Genes Responsible for Coat Texture in Dogs

Researchers have found that variants in just three genes, acting in different combinations, appear to account for the wide range of coat texture seen in dogs. The study involved genome-wide SNP association analysis carried out in 1,000 individual dogs representing 80 breeds. "What's important for human health is the way we found the genes involved in dog coats and figured out how they work together, rather than the genes themselves," said senior author Dr. Elaine A. Ostrander, chief of the Cancer Genetics Branch in the National Human Genome Research Institute. "We think this approach will help pinpoint multiple genes involved in complex human conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity." The authors noted that their work illustrates that an array of varied and seemingly complex phenotypes can be reduced to the combinatorial effects of only a few genes. Specifically, the researchers found that an alteration in the RSPO2 gene results in wiry hair that grows in a pattern that gives the dogs a mustachioed look with long details called furnishings. Examples of dogs with wiry coats are Scottish terriers, Irish terriers and schnauzers. Long hair that is silky or fluffy was linked to a variant in the FGF5 gene. Cocker spaniels, Pomeranians and long-haired Chihuahuas are examples of dogs with long coats. A variant in the KRT71 gene produces curly coated dogs, such as the Irish water spaniel. Finally, if all three variants are present, a dog has a long and curly coat with furnishings. Examples of this type of breed include poodles and Portuguese water dogs. This work was published online in Science on August 27. [Press release] [Science abstract]
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