Artificial selection on brain-expressed genes during the domestication of dog

Yan Li, Bridgett M. Von Holdt, Andy Reynolds, Adam R. Boyko, Robert K. Wayne, Dong Dong Wu, Ya Ping Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Domesticated dogs have many unique behaviors not found in gray wolves that have augmented their interaction and communication with humans. The genetic basis of such unique behaviors in dogs remains poorly understood. We found that genes within regions highly differentiated between outbred Chinese native dogs (CNs) and wolves show high bias for expression localized to brain tissues, particularly the prefrontal cortex, a specific region responsible for complex cognitive behaviors. In contrast, candidate genes showing high population differentiation between CNs and German Shepherd dogs (GSs) did not demonstrate significant expression bias. These observations indicate that these candidate genes highly expressed in the brain have rapidly evolved. This rapid evolution was probably driven by artificial selection during the primary transition from wolves to ancient dogs and was consistent with the evolution of dog-specific characteristics, such as behavior transformation, for thousands of years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1867-1876
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology


  • Artificial selection
  • Behavioral evolution
  • Brain evolution
  • Dog domestication


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