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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Differential gene expression in brain tissues of aggressive and non-aggressive dogs

Jørn Våge1, Tina B Bønsdorff1, Ellen Arnet1, Aage Tverdal2 and Frode Lingaas1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Genetics, Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Oslo, Norway

2 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Veterinary Research 2010, 6:34  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-6-34

Published: 16 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Canine behavioural problems, in particular aggression, are important reasons for euthanasia of otherwise healthy dogs. Aggressive behaviour in dogs also represents an animal welfare problem and a public threat. Elucidating the genetic background of adverse behaviour can provide valuable information to breeding programs and aid the development of drugs aimed at treating undesirable behaviour. With the intentions of identifying gene-specific expression in particular brain parts and comparing brains of aggressive and non-aggressive dogs, we studied amygdala, frontal cortex, hypothalamus and parietal cortex, as these tissues are reported to be involved in emotional reactions, including aggression. Based on quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) in 20 brains, obtained from 11 dogs euthanised because of aggressive behaviour and nine non-aggressive dogs, we studied expression of nine genes identified in an initial screening by subtraction hybridisation.

Results

This study describes differential expression of the UBE2V2 and ZNF227 genes in brains of aggressive and non-aggressive dogs. It also reports differential expression for eight of the studied genes across four different brain tissues (amygdala, frontal cortex, hypothalamus, and parietal cortex). Sex differences in transcription levels were detected for five of the nine studied genes.

Conclusions

The study showed significant differences in gene expression between brain compartments for most of the investigated genes. Increased expression of two genes was associated with the aggression phenotype. Although the UBE2V2 and ZNF227 genes have no known function in regulation of aggressive behaviour, this study contributes to preliminary data of differential gene expression in the canine brain and provides new information to be further explored.