This is a continuation of a pilot project to identify genetic loci that regulate behavior and morphology in the Silver Fox, V. Vulves. The project exploits two unique populations of fox developed at this institute by selecting for behavioral responses to humans: One population is tame (domesticated), the other aggressive. Recent behavioral research by Brian Hare and his colleagues has demonstrated that domestication of the wolf (dogs) and of these foxes involves the acquisition of the ability to interpret human intent from the facial expression and body language of humans. This characteristic promises to shed light on behavioral problems in humans such as autism. We have preliminary evidence identifying four genetic loci that regulate this behavior. This evidence is derived from a genetic analysis of segregant progeny derived from backcrossing aggressive into tame foxes. In this continuation we propose to: 1) Validate these loci by means of specific marker directed crosses;2) Identify a number of morphological loci that are also segregating in this backcross;and 3) determine if morphology appropriate to aggressive or tame behaviors co-segregate with (are linked to) behavioral loci. We propose to establish specific haplotypes for each of the several behavioral and morphological loci and subsequently determine the relevant genes that regulate these phenotypes.

Public Health Relevance

Inability to recognize human intent is one of the major components of autism, a disease that is becoming increasingly important. This research investigates an animal (fox) model for deciphering the genetic basis for recognition of human intent. At the same time this model will give insights into morphological change (changes in appearance) that may accompany such behavioral disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Fogarty International Center (FIC)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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International and Cooperative Projects - 1 Study Section (ICP1)
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Katz, Flora N
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Institute of Cytology and Genetics
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Nelson, Ronald M; Temnykh, Svetlana V; Johnson, Jennifer L et al. (2017) Genetics of Interactive Behavior in Silver Foxes (Vulpes vulpes). Behav Genet 47:88-101
Johnson, Jennifer L; Wittgenstein, Helena; Mitchell, Sharon E et al. (2015) Genotyping-By-Sequencing (GBS) Detects Genetic Structure and Confirms Behavioral QTL in Tame and Aggressive Foxes (Vulpes vulpes). PLoS One 10:e0127013
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Gogoleva, Svetlana S; Volodina, Elena V; Volodin, Ilya A et al. (2010) The gradual vocal responses to human-provoked discomfort in farmed silver foxes. Acta Ethol 13:75-85
Kharlamova, Anastasia V; Trut, Lyudmila N; Chase, Kevin et al. (2010) Directional asymmetry in the limbs, skull and pelvis of the silver fox (V. vulpes). J Morphol 271:1501-8

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