Genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) detects genetic structure and confirms behavioral QTL in tame and aggressive foxes (Vulpes vulpes)

Jennifer L. Johnson, Helena Wittgenstein, Sharon E. Mitchell, Katie E. Hyma, Svetlana V. Temnykh, Anastasiya V. Kharlamova, Rimma G. Gulevich, Anastasiya V. Vladimirova, Hiu Wa Flora Fong, Gregory M. Acland, Lyudmila N. Trut, Anna V. Kukekova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) offers a novel model for studying the genetics of social behavior and animal domestication. Selection of foxes, separately, for tame and for aggressive behavior has yielded two strains with markedly different, genetically determined, behavioral phenotypes. Tame strain foxes are eager to establish human contact while foxes from the aggressive strain are aggressive and difficult to handle. These strains have been maintained as separate outbred lines for over 40 generations but their genetic structure has not been previously investigated. We applied a genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) approach to provide insights into the genetic composition of these fox populations. Sequence analysis of EcoT22I genomic libraries of tame and aggressive foxes identified 48,294 high quality SNPs. Population structure analysis revealed genetic divergence between the two strains and more diversity in the aggressive strain than in the tame one. Significant differences in allele frequency between the strains were identified for 68 SNPs. Three of these SNPs were located on fox chromosome 14 within an interval of a previously identified behavioral QTL, further supporting the importance of this region for behavior. The GBS SNP data confirmed that significant genetic diversity has been preserved in both fox populations despite many years of selective breeding. Analysis of SNP allele frequencies in the two populations identified several regions of genetic divergence between the tame and aggressive foxes, some of which may represent targets of selection for behavior. The GBS protocol used in this study significantly expanded genomic resources for the fox, and can be adapted for SNP discovery and genotyping in other canid species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0127013
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 10 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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