“Everyone in the world is my friend!”, or The genetic architecture of a hyper-social canid
Although considerable progress has been made in understanding the genetic basis of morphologic traits (for example, body size and coat color) in dogs and wolves, the genetic basis of their behavioral divergence is poorly understood. An integrative approach using both behavioral and genetic data is required to understand the molecular underpinnings of the various behavioral characteristics associated with domestication. We analyze a 5-Mb genomic region on chromosome 6 previously found to be under positive selection in domestic dog breeds. Deletion of this region in humans is linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS), a multisystem congenital disorder characterized by hypersocial behavior. We associate quantitative data on behavioral phenotypes symptomatic of WBS in humans with structural changes in the WBS locus in dogs. We find that hypersociability, a central feature of WBS, is also a core element of domestication that distinguishes dogs from wolves. We provide evidence that structural variants in GTF2I and GTF2IRD1, genes previously implicated in the behavioral phenotype of patients with WBS and contained within the WBS locus, contribute to extreme sociability in dogs. This finding suggests that there are commonalities in the genetic architecture of WBS and canine tameness and that directional selection may have targeted a unique set of linked behavioral genes of large phenotypic effect, allowing for rapid behavioral divergence of dogs and wolves, facilitating coexistence with humans.
When: June 20th, 2018, 8-9:30pm EST
This talk will address the following:
- Defining and measuring hypersocial
- Genetic association methods
- Predicting molecular consequences
- Population assessment of variants
Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt is an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department. One of her research interests is learning about the genomic changes that occurred in canines due to strong selective pressures during their transition from wolves to dogs. Her research group studies a diversity of perspectives relevant to canine genomics, from hybridization and admixture genetics to the role of gene regulation and epigenetic modifications. She is currently investigating the role of transposable elements in shaping the variation in canine social behavior, through a large-scale evolutionary assessment coupled with functional genomics. She is an long-time cat owner and has recently adopted her first real canine, Marla, the English Sheepdog.