University of Oulu

Sarviaho, R., Hakosalo, O., Tiira, K., Sulkama, S., Salmela, E., Hytönen, M., Sillanpää, M., Lohi, H. (2019) Two novel genomic regions associated with fearfulness in dogs overlap human neuropsychiatric loci. Translational Psychiatry, 9 (1). doi:10.1038/s41398-018-0361-x

Two novel genomic regions associated with fearfulness in dogs overlap human neuropsychiatric loci

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Author: Sarviaho, R.1,2,3; Hakosalo, O.1,2,3; Tiira, K.1,2,3,4;
Organizations: 1Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
2Research Programs Unit, Molecular Neurology, University of Helsinki, 00014, Helsinki, Finland
3The Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, 00290, Helsinki, Finland
4Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
5Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
6Department of Mathematical Sciences and Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-03-08


Anxiety disorders are among the leading health issues in human medicine. The complex phenotypic and allelic nature of these traits as well as the challenge of establishing reliable measures of the heritable component of behaviour from the associated environmental factors hampers progress in their molecular aetiology. Dogs exhibit large natural variation in fearful and anxious behaviour and could facilitate progress in the molecular aetiology due to their unique genetic architecture. We have performed a genome-wide association study with a canine high-density SNP array in a cohort of 330 German Shepherds for two phenotypes, fear of loud noises (noise sensitivity) and fear of strangers or in novel situations. Genome-widely significant loci were discovered for the traits on chromosomes 20 and 7, respectively. The regions overlap human neuropsychiatric loci, including 18p11.2, with physiologically relevant candidate genes that contribute to glutamatergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission in the brain. In addition, the noise-sensitivity locus includes hearing-related candidate genes. These results indicate a genetic contribution for canine fear and suggest a shared molecular aetiology of anxiety across species. Further characterisation of the identified loci will pave the way to molecular understanding of the conditions as a prerequisite for improved therapy.

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Series: Translational psychiatry
ISSN: 2158-3188
ISSN-E: 2158-3188
ISSN-L: 2158-3188
Volume: 9
Article number: 18
DOI: 10.1038/s41398-018-0361-x
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3112 Neurosciences
413 Veterinary science
112 Statistics and probability
Funding: The study was supported by the European Research Council, ERC (Grant no: 260997 DOGPSYCH) (; Academy of Finland (268019); ERA-NET Neuron Mental Disorders; the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation: the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Jenny and Antti Wihuri, Ella and Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation, ILS Doctoral Program of University of Helsinki, the Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, DVM Doctoral Program of University of Helsinki and University of Oulu.
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