Natural and human-driven selection of a single non-coding body size variant in ancient and modern canids

Jocelyn Plassais, Bridgett M. vonHoldt, Heidi G. Parker, Alberto Carmagnini, Nicolas Dubos, Ilenia Papa, Kevin Bevant, Thomas Derrien, Lauren M. Hennelly, D. Thad Whitaker, Alex C. Harris, Andrew N. Hogan, Heather J. Huson, Victor F. Zaibert, Anna Linderholm, James Haile, Thierry Fest, Bilal Habib, Benjamin N. Sacks, Norbert BeneckeAlan K. Outram, Mikhail V. Sablin, Mietje Germonpré, Greger Larson, Laurent Frantz, Elaine A. Ostrander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most variable-sized mammalian species on Earth, displaying a 40-fold size difference between breeds.1 Although dogs of variable size are found in the archeological record,2–4 the most dramatic shifts in body size are the result of selection over the last two centuries, as dog breeders selected and propagated phenotypic extremes within closed breeding populations.5 Analyses of over 200 domestic breeds have identified approximately 20 body size genes regulating insulin processing, fatty acid metabolism, TGFβ signaling, and skeletal formation.6–10 Of these, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) predominates, controlling approximately 15% of body size variation between breeds.8 The identification of a functional mutation associated with IGF1 has thus far proven elusive.6,10,11 Here, to identify and elucidate the role of an ancestral IGF1 allele in the propagation of modern canids, we analyzed 1,431 genome sequences from 13 species, including both ancient and modern canids, thus allowing us to define the evolutionary history of both ancestral and derived alleles at this locus. We identified a single variant in an antisense long non-coding RNA (IGF1-AS) that interacts with the IGF1 gene, creating a duplex. While the derived mutation predominates in both modern gray wolves and large domestic breeds, the ancestral allele, which predisposes to small size, was common in small-sized breeds and smaller wild canids. Our analyses demonstrate that this major regulator of canid body size nearly vanished in Pleistocene wolves, before its recent resurgence resulting from human-imposed selection for small-sized breed dogs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)889-897.e9
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 28 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • IGF1
  • ancient DNA
  • antisense lncRNA
  • body size
  • canid evolution
  • canine
  • dog
  • domestication
  • long non-coding RNA
  • wolf


Dive into the research topics of 'Natural and human-driven selection of a single non-coding body size variant in ancient and modern canids'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this