Researchers leverage citizen science and dog DNA samples to characterize avariant in the MC1R gene, one of the earliest mutations related to dogdomestication

VANCOUVER, Wash.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Wisdom Health Genetics, the world leader inpet genetics and maker of the WISDOM PANEL™ dog DNA test, announced today thepublication in Canine Medicine and Genetics of the study Comprehensivegenetic testing combined

In the study, researchers characterize the impact of an ancient gene varianton coat colors in modern dog breeds.

Using data from Wisdom Panel™ products, researchers conducted genotypeanalysis to determine the distribution and frequency of the ancient R301Cvariant in the Melanocortin 1 Receptor gene ( MC1R ). The study found theR301C variant in 35 modern dog breeds, with a frequency of 1.5% in a cohort ofnearly 12,000 dogs representing 304 different breeds.

Remarkably, the research found the R301C variant to be the most common MC1Rvariant in some Spitz breeds (Alaskan Malamute, Alaskan Klee Kai, NorthernInuit Dog, Siberian Husky) and Hound breeds (Drever and English Foxhound).

“We sought to determine whether the ancient R301C variant is present intoday’s dog population, and if so, what effect it has on a dog’s coat colorphenotype,” said Heidi Anderson, Ph.D., Senior R&D Manager at Wisdom HealthGenetics. “Our findings indicate that the R301C variant represents a novelreduced function allele of the MC1R gene that results in various reddish-yellow enriched phenotypes and explains the coat color patterning known as“grizzle” in Chihuahua, “domino” in Alaskan Malamute and other Spitz breeds,and “pied” in Beagle. We designated this newly characterized variant asancient red (eA).”

The study leveraged citizen science—comparing the dogs’ coat color variantgenotypes with owner-provided photos of the dogs’ coats. This allowedresearchers to further understand the influence of R301C on MC1R , a variantin a gene associated with the melanistic mask, grizzle/domino, and recessivered coat color phenotypes.

“Pet parents and breeders play a crucial role in genetic research bysupporting studies of the genetic background of traits and their respectivephenotypes,” said Rebecca Chodroff Foran, Ph.D., R&D Director at Wisdom HealthGenetics. “Without their willingness to participate in citizen science, wewould not have been able to make these discoveries.”

This study underscores the importance of not only genetic testing across alarge number of dog breeds but also the role of citizen science in furtheringscientific discoveries in companion animal genetics.

Pet owners interested in learning more about Wisdom Health Genetics researchand citizen science efforts as they become available can do so at

About the ancient MC1R mutation study:

● Signaling at the Melanocortin 1 Receptor gene, known as MC1R , determinesa dog’s coat color. The MC1R gene produces a key signaling molecule thathelps determine both the expression of eumelanin (black/brown color) andpheomelanin (yellow/red color) and the location of the pigments throughout thebody and individual hairs. Variation in the MC1R gene is associated withseveral coat color phenotypes, or appearances—namely the melanistic mask,grizzle/domino, and recessive red color in dogs.

● In this study, researchers explored the Wisdom Health Geneticsdatabase—totaling over 2 million samples—to identify dogs genotyped for theR301C variant. The researchers then leveraged citizen science to compare thegenotypes to the dogs’ actual coat color phenotypes using photos provided bythe dogs’ owners.

● First identified in 10,000-year-old prehistoric dog DNA samples, the R301Cvariant is one of the earliest mutations found in dogs. It likely representsone of the first coat color variations related to dog domestication. Intoday’s dogs, this variant causes coat color patterns referred to as domino inAlaskan Malamute and other Spitz breeds, pied in Beagle, and grizzle inChihuahua.

● For the study, owners collected DNA samples from their dogs via cheek swab.The 11,750 dogs studied represented 304 breeds and varieties and included 391mixed-breed dogs. Researchers found the R301C variant present in 35 of thebreeds or breed varieties at a frequency of 1.5% in this study sample.

About Wisdom Health Genetics

The mission of the Wisdom Health business, a division of Kinship, is tostrengthen the bond between pets and their people through world-leadinginsights powered by DNA. Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA tests—backed by WISDOM HEALTH™scientific research—can help pet parents plan better, care smarter, and lovelonger. For more than a decade, Wisdom Health™ scientific research hascontributed to state-of-the-art genetic tests for companion animals,revolutionizing personalized pet care. By unlocking the secrets of their dogor cat’s DNA, pet parents and veterinarians can work together to tailorwellness programs that fit the one-of-a-kind needs of their pets. More than7,000 veterinarians worldwide recommend and offer Wisdom Panel™ products. Formore information, visit, and follow the Wisdom Panel™brand on Facebook and Instagram.

About Kinship

Advances in science, technology, health and nutrition offer an opportunity totransform the $100B+ pet care industry. With industry-leading data andanalytics capabilities, a $100M venture fund and pioneering startupaccelerator program, unique set of technology businesses like Whistle andWisdom Health Genetics, Kinship is building the first-of-its-kind coalition ofpartners to transform the future of pet care. Kinship is a business divisionof Mars Petcare, the global leader in pet health, nutrition and services,dedicated to one purpose: A Better World for Pets. Follow @kinshipco to learnmore.

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