Scientists discover what makes dogs black

A North American research team that includes University of Saskatchewan molecular biologist Sheila Schmutz and Gregory Barsh of Stanford University has discovered a somewhat unexpected function for a gene in dogs.

The gene — beta-Defensin 103 — is part of a larger family of genes traditionally involved in immunity. But in an online Oct. 19th Science article, the team shows that a dominant mutation of this gene is the cause of black coat color in the majority of dog breeds.

As well, the team has developed a series of DNA tests to determine whether dogs have two black alleles (homozygous) or one (heterozygous). This will assist dog breeders who, after learning the genetics of their dogs, will be able to make informed decisions about breeding animals for particular purposes. The test is offered by HealthGene, a molecular diagnostic and research firm in Toronto that offers DNA testing to dog breeders.

The print version of the article will appear in an upcoming issue of Science.

Source: U of S Research Communications.

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