Using Genotyping to Correlate Pointing, Herding, & Retrieving Behaviors Across Dog Breeds

Mentors: Elinor Karlsson, Charlie Johnson, Ross Swofford, & Howie Rafal

Alison used Sequenom genotyping technologies to look at SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) in regions of the dog genome that correlate with the behaviors of herding, pointing, and retrieving. Alison and her mentors compared the versions of 177 SNPs found in 720 dogs from 49 different dog breeds exhibiting none, some, or all of these three behaviors.

Alison found SNPs on several chromosomes that were correlated with the behaviors of interest, and many of these SNPs were in genes associated with human disease. For example, she found a pointing SNP on chromosome 1 in a gene linked to schizophrenia, and a retrieving SNP on the X chromosome in a human oncogene expressed in the brain. By identifying the genes correlated with these behaviors, and using cross-species genomic analysis, Alison revealed that the genes she identified are also involved in human psychiatric diseases and disorders, thereby providing insight into the functions of these genes.

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Alison, a senior at Malden High School, identified genes associated with pointing, herding, and retrieving behaviors in various dog breeds.