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Fundamental research

29 - 06 - 2018

The genes that domesticated dogs

Researchers have identified a set of genes related to the domestication of dogs. This discovery advances knowledge on embryogenesis for all vertebrates.



The dog was domesticated from the gray wolf ten to forty thousand years ago in Eurasia. Today this species exists with very different morphologies (phenotypes) while preserving the common features of domestication: docility, reduced face and jaw, ears drooping.


Researchers have studied genes influenced by domestication. They carried out a genomic analysis of forty-three village dogs, dogs buried about 5000 years ago and ten wolves, taking care to separate the modifications related to domestication from those related to the breeding of races.




Four hundred and twenty-nine genes have been identified as candidates for domestication, many of which are linked to the neural crest * indicating that domestication genes act during embryogenesis. Of these, the RAI1 gene seems to be the most influential.


Beyond the scientific interest in dog domestication, this study is interesting for human health. Indeed, the domestication of the dog was accompanied by the shift of its period of activity from night to day. However, there is a human disease, the Smith-Magenis syndrome which combines aggression, alteration of the circadian rhythm, craniofacial deformities and intellectual deficits. The RAI1 gene is associated with this disease.


The findings in the dog help understand how the neural crest and embryogenesis in all vertebrates, including humans, function.


* The neural crest is a group of embryonic stem cells that migrate during development and are responsible for bones, cartilage, endocrine cells, glial cells and peripheral neurons.