Monday, May 07, 2007

Genetics of speed in dogs

I've posted on the population differences in GDF8 in humans. Here is a new study that examines the association between a polymorphism in MSTN (myostatin gene which is apparently the same as GDF8) and how fast individual dogs are. The ones who have two copies have a double muscling phenotype and the heterozygotes are faster than either homozygote.

A Mutation in the Myostatin Gene Increases Muscle Mass and Enhances Racing Performance in Heterozygote Dogs

Dana S. Mosher, Pascale Quignon, Carlos D. Bustamante, Nathan B. Sutter, Cathryn S. Mellersh, Heidi G. Parker, Elaine A. Ostrander

PLoS Genetics

Provisional Abstract: 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.

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