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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Analysis of vkorc1 polymorphisms in Norway rats using the roof rat as outgroup

Juan C Díaz1, Ying Song1, Anthony Moore1, Jeff N Borchert2 and Michael H Kohn1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, 6100 Main Street, MS 170, Houston, Texas 77005, USA

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Bacterial Diseases Branch, 3150 Rampart Road, Fort Collins, CO 80522, USA

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BMC Genetics 2010, 11:43  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-43

Published: 24 May 2010



Certain mutations in the vitamin K epoxide reductase subcomponent 1 gene (vkorc1) mediate rodent resistance to warfarin and other anticoagulants. Testing for resistance often involves analysis of the vkorc1. However, a genetic test for the roof rat (Rattus rattus) has yet to be developed. Moreover, an available roof rat vkorc1 sequence would enable species identification based on vkorc1 sequence and the evaluation of natural selection on particular vkorc1 polymorphisms in the Norway rat (R. norvegicus).


We report the coding sequence, introns and 5' and 3' termini for the vkorc1 gene of roof rats (R. r. alexandrinus and R. r. frugivorus) from Uganda, Africa. Newly designed PCR primers now enable genetic testing of the roof rat and Norway rat. Only synonymous and noncoding polymorphisms were found in roof rats from Uganda. Both nominal subspecies of roof rats were indistinguishable from each other but were distinct from R. losea and R. flavipectus; however, the roof rat also shares at least three coding sequence polymorphisms with R. losea and R. flavipectus. Many of recently published vkorc1 synonymous and non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Norway rats are likely SNPs from roof rats and/or other Rattus species. Tests applied to presumably genuine Norway rat vkorc1 SNPs are consistent with a role for selection in two populations carrying the derived Phe63Cys and Tyr139Cys mutations.


Geographic mapping of vkorc1 SNPs in roof rats should be facilitated by our report. Our assay should be applicable to most species of Rattus, which are intermediate in genetic distance from roof and Norway rats. Vkorc1-mediated resistance due to non-synonymous coding SNPs is not segregating in roof rats from Uganda. By using the roof rat sequence as a reference vkorc1, SNPs now can be assigned to the correct rat species with more confidence. Sampling designs and genotyping strategies employed so far have helped detect candidate mutations underlying vkorc1-mediated resistance, but generally provided unsuitable data to test for selection. We propose that our understanding of vkorc1-mediated evolution of resistance in rodents would benefit from the adoption of sampling and genotyping designs that enable tests for selection on vkorc1.