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Canine genomics and the evolution of phenotypic diversity (CANINE GENOMICS)
Start date: 01 Feb 2008, End date: 31 Jan 2010 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Rapid generation of morphological change has long puzzled biologists, as it is difficult to reconcile with the low frequency at which point mutations occur. In general, the mechanisms that underline the genesis of extreme diversity are unknown, but they ma y be relevant to many situations in the natural world (i.e. adaptive radiations). Here I propose the dog as a model for the study of such mechanisms: they have an extreme morphological diversity; their ancestor, the wolf, is still extant and available for comparison; and the genome has been recently sequenced and a large number of markers are available. I plan on studying two of the mechanisms that can contribute to the generation of diversity in dogs. Also, I would like to apply current knowledge on the do g genome to understand processes and forces acting on natural populations of wolves. Some studies have shown that recombination rates increase with stress level. I hypothesize that the change in life style in dogs compared to wolves may have resulted in higher recombination rates. As a consequence, new allele combinations have arisen providing the raw material for artificial selection to act upon. I will test this hypothesis by typing microsatellite markers with known locations in the sperm of dogs and wolves. Also, SINEs and tandem repeats can have effects on gene expression. I will study variability in SINEs and tandem repeats associated to genes with known function in dogs and wolves and try to correlate their diversity with phenotypic diversity in both species. In North American and European wolves I will compare coat colour gene sequences. Moving to a European Host Institution in accordance with my professional needs will contribute to the diversification of my competences and to my development as an independent researcher. Mobility of researchers is a key action for the developing of long lasting synergies and networks in Europe and, consequently, for boosting and structuring the European Research Area.
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