The genome of the domesticated dog, a close evolutionary relation to human, is a powerful new tool for understanding the human genome. Comparison of the dog with human and other mammals reveals key information about the structure and evolution of genes and genomes. The unique breeding history of dogs, with their extraordinary behavioral and physical diversity, offers the opportunity to find important genes underlying diseases shared between dogs and humans, such as cancer, diabetes, and epilepsy.
The Canine Genome Sequencing Project produced a high-quality draft sequence of a female boxer named Tasha. By comparing Tasha with many other breeds, the project also compiled a comprehensive set of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) useful in all dog breeds. These closely spaced genomic landmarks are critical for disease mapping. By comparing the dog, rodent, and human lineages, researchers at the Broad Institute uncovered exciting new information about human genes, their evolution, and the regulatory mechanisms governing their expression. Using SNPs, researchers describe the strikingly different haplotype structure in dog breeds compared with the entire dog population. In addition, they show that by understanding the patterns of variation in dog breeds, scientists can design powerful gene mapping experiments for complex diseases that are difficult to map in human populations.