-- Alan Mozes
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- In what is described as
the most comprehensive genetic analysis of dogs to date,
researchers have found that a mere handful of genetic regions
account for the majority of differences in physical traits among
The observation is drawn from the genetic mapping of 915 dogs,
conducted to determine the inherited source of about 57 specific
physical traits that distinguish one breed from another. The effort
could eventually lead to fresh insight into the genetic
underpinnings of basic human traits such as height, weight and hair
"Understanding the genetic bases of complex traits in humans is difficult because many different genes can influence a particular trait. Having model systems, such as mice and dogs, is critical for making sense of the biology," co-author Carlos Bustamante, a professor of genetics at Stanford University in California, explained in a university news release. "Dogs are a fantastic model system since they complement mouse and human genetics."
The analysis revealed that "only six or seven locations in the
dog genome are necessary to explain about 80 percent of the
differences in height and weight among dog breeds," he said. "In
humans these are controlled by hundreds, if not thousands, of
The researchers added that identifying the dozen regions where
dogs carry genetic switches among breeds may point scientists to
where they can find mutations crucial to human health and
Bustamante and colleagues from Stanford University School of
Medicine, Cornell University and the National Human Genome Research
Institute reported the findings online Aug. 10 in the
Public Library of Science -- Biology.
The authors noted that because of relatively recent human
efforts to engineer new canine breeds, dogs have now become the
most physically diverse land animal.
The research team's genetic analysis involved representatives of
80 domestic dog breeds and 83 wild canids, including wolves, foxes
and coyotes. Ten domesticated Egyptian village dogs were also
Hoping to use canine gene mapping to shed more light on
mammalian behavior, Bustamante and his colleagues say they next
plan to map the genetic sources of canine behavioral traits.
For more on the dog genome, visit the
U.S. National Center for Biotechnology
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