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Selection for tameness modulates the expression of heme related genes in silver foxes
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Evolution, Genomics and Systematics. (beteende genetik)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Evolution, Genomics and Systematics. (conservation genetics)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Evolution, Genomics and Systematics, Evolutionary Biology. (conservation genetics)
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2007 (English)In: Behavioral and Brain Functions, ISSN 1744-9081, Vol. 3, 18- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: The genetic and molecular mechanisms of tameness are largely unknown. A line of silver foxes (Vulpes vulpes) selected for non-aggressive behavior has been used in Russia since the 1960's to study the effect of domestication. We have previously compared descendants of these selected (S) animals with a group of non-selected (NS) silver foxes kept under identical conditions, and showed that changes in the brain transcriptome between the two groups are small. Unexpectedly, many of the genes showing evidence of differential expression between groups were related to hemoproteins. RESULTS: In this study, we use quantitative RT-PCR to demonstrate that the activity of heme related genes differ between S and NS foxes in three regions of the brain. Furthermore, our analyses also indicate that changes in mRNA levels of heme related genes can be well described by an additive polygenic effect. We also show that the difference in genetic background between the two lines of foxes is limited, as estimated by mitochondrial DNA divergence. CONCLUSION: Our results indicate that selection for tameness can modify the expression of heme related genes in canid brain regions known to modulate emotions and behavior. The possible involvement of heme related genes in behavior is surprising. It is possible that hemoglobin modulates the behavior of canids by interaction with CO and NO signaling. Another possibility is that hemorphins, known to be produced after enzymatic cleavage of hemoglobin, are responsible for behavioral alterations. Thus, we hypothesize that hemoglobin metabolism can be a functionally relevant aspect of the domestic phenotype in foxes selected for tameness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 3, 18- p.
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-96113DOI: 10.1186/1744-9081-3-18ISI: 000251252400001PubMedID: 17439650OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-96113DiVA: diva2:170581
Available from: 2007-09-06 Created: 2007-09-06 Last updated: 2011-01-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Exploring Brain Gene Expression i Animal Models of Behaviour
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring Brain Gene Expression i Animal Models of Behaviour
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The genetic basis for behavioural traits is largely unknown. The overall aim of this thesis was to find genes with importance for behavioural traits related to fear and anxiety. Microarray analysis was used to screen expression profiles of brain regions important for emotional behaviour in dogs, wolves, foxes and mice. In a first experiment, dogs and their wild ancestors the wolves were compared. Our results suggested that directed selection for behaviour might have resulted in expression changes in few genes acting on several brain functions, possibly affecting behaviour. However, the observed expressional differences were confounded with environmental effects. This was addressed in a second study on domesticated silver foxes. By correlating behaviour and brain gene expression in foxes selected for tameness to non-selected foxes raised in the same environment, we found large behavioural differences but only few genes with differential expression in the brain. Fifteen of the 40 genes showing evidence of expression difference were related to haem or haemoglobins. Further studies showed an additive genetic effect on brain gene expression, similar to the additive genetic inheritance of behaviour, indicating an involvement in domestication. Transcriptional profiling was also used for finding genes involved with the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Narcoleptic Doberman pinschers homozygous for the canarc-1 mutation were compared to their unaffected heterozygots revealing reduced expression of three genes, TAC1, PENK and SOCS2, with relevance to the narcoleptic phenotype. Finally gene expression was investigated in relation to anxiety-related traits in a mouse model. Surprisingly, as in the fox study, genes coding for haemoglobins indicated differential expression in the brain between animals with different anxiety levels. Our combined results suggest that genes like haemoglobins, best known for their function in oxygen transport in blood, may also participate in brain functions related to decreased anxiety in domestic animals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2007. 46 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 329
Biology, behavioural genetics, gene expression, brain, microarray analysis, domestication, animal model, haem, Canis familiaris, Vulpes vulpes, Mus musculus, Biologi
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-8177 (URN)978-91-554-6948-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-09-27, Zootissalen, Zoologiska institutionen, EBC, Norbyvägen 16, Uppsala, 13:00
Available from: 2007-09-06 Created: 2007-09-06Bibliographically approved

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Jazin, Elena
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