Scientists study genes regulating dog coat colours

Studying a breed of Irish setter, a study team at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine discovered a new genetic element that underlies the regulation of coat color in dogs. Specifically, the researchers studied the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, a medium-sized hunting dog, often referred to as a toller.

According to the researchers, the particular color of the coat of these dogs derives from two particular pigments, yellow (pheomelanin) and black (eumelanin). These two pigments, in turn, are regulated by the MC1R genes (melanocortin receptor 1) and the agouti signaling protein (ASIP). Depending on the mutation of MC1R, the coat of these dogs may produce more or less pheomelanin and appear more or less yellow or red.

Specifically, dogs with a larger number of copies of the DNA region on chromosome 15 have more intense coat colors while animals with a smaller number of copies have a lighter coat.

The study, which appeared in Genes, shows how much there is still to know about the different coat colours of dogs, even of other breeds. The study was carried out by senior author Danika Bannasch and graduate student Kalie Weich.

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