Research ArticleGENETICS

Structural variants in genes associated with human Williams-Beuren syndrome underlie stereotypical hypersociability in domestic dogs

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Science Advances  19 Jul 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 7, e1700398
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700398

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  • RE: WBS-linked genetic changes in dogs

    The dog's WBS-related chromosome area is homozygous, while wolves have more hetereozygousity. This is not a domestication trait as authors claim. The stretch of homozygosity in dogs is over 5 Mb, which is close to a typical size of homozygous region that contains 30 to 50 homozygous SNPs. At least this many are in the 5 Mb stretch under consideration. Not enough detail is provided in the vonHoldt et al. paper to be more specific, but the homozygosity suggests the genetic material is from common ancestors 50 to 200 generations ago. If dogs have roughly 3 year generations, that's 150 to 600 years ago, corresponding to the era of breed development. Note Kim et al., The Relationship between Runs of Homozygosity and Inbreeding in Jersey Cattle under Selection, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0129967

    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: WBS-linked genetic changes in dogs

    Much less here than meets the eye. WBS is a debilitating human condition, of which only "hypersociability" is but one. Care should be taken when considering a serious disease as a model of another species's ordinary behavior.

    VonHoldt et al. focus on chromosome region 17, WBSCR17, which, when around 28 genes in this region get deleted in humans, causes WBS. The researchers report that among 16 dogs, 38 deletions in the area were found. I assume that means around 2 deletions per dog, which can't be sufficient to cause WBS symptoms. Also, when the researchers compared this to wolves, they found that wolf structural variations in region 17 were more comparable to the genetic patterns of people with WBS than dog's SVs were. They don't explore this. But it would seem to contradict their hypothesis.

    Also, it's unclear if the four WBS-related SVs that VonHoldt et al. identify are deletions. They're said to be "significantly associated with human-directed sociable behavior," according to PLINK. But does the SV affect a gene associated with sociability, or is the SV itself is associated with sociability? Judging from the discussion, which jumps immediately from noting an association to a discussion of human WBS, the SV is located on a WBS-related gene, but it isn't an SV that causes the gene to malfunction in humans.

    The take away is that some aspect of sociability may be selected for in dogs that falls in...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: "Structural variants in genes...in dogs"

    Wonderful example of reductionism! Dogs lick humans faces as a show of submission. Dog packs are strictly hierarchical.

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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