DNA methylation patterns of behavior-related gene promoter regions dissect the gray wolf from domestic dog breeds

Zsofia Banlaki, Giulia Cimarelli, Zsofia Viranyi, Eniko Kubinyi, Maria Sasvari-Szekely, Zsolt Ronai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


A growing body of evidence highlights the relationship between epigenetics, especially DNA methylation, and population divergence as well as speciation. However, little is known about how general the phenomenon of epigenetics-wise separation of different populations is, or whether population assignment is, possible based on solely epigenetic marks. In the present study, we compared DNA methylation profiles between four different canine populations: three domestic dog breeds and their ancestor the gray wolf. Altogether, 79 CpG sites constituting the 65 so-called CpG units located in the promoter regions of genes affecting behavioral and temperamental traits (COMT, HTR1A, MAOA, OXTR, SLC6A4, TPH1, WFS1)—regions putatively targeted during domestication and breed selection. Methylation status of buccal cells was assessed using EpiTYPER technology. Significant inter-population methylation differences were found in 52.3% of all CpG units investigated. DNA methylation profile-based hierarchical cluster analysis indicated an unambiguous segregation of wolf from domestic dog. In addition, one of the three dog breeds (Golden Retriever) investigated also formed a separate, autonomous group. The findings support that population segregation is interrelated with shifts in DNA methylation patterns, at least in putative selection target regions, and also imply that epigenetic profiles could provide a sufficient basis for population assignment of individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)685-697
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Genetics and Genomics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Behavior
  • Canine
  • DNA methylation
  • Domestication
  • Population assignment
  • Promoter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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