Red fox genome assembly identifies genomic regions associated with tame and aggressive behaviours

Anna V. Kukekova, Jennifer L. Johnson, Xueyan Xiang, Shaohong Feng, Shiping Liu, Halie M. Rando, Anastasiya V. Kharlamova, Yury Herbeck, Natalya A. Serdyukova, Zijun Xiong, Violetta Beklemischeva, Klaus Peter Koepfli, Rimma G. Gulevich, Anastasiya V. Vladimirova, Jessica P. Hekman, Polina L. Perelman, Aleksander S. Graphodatsky, Stephen J. O’Brien, Xu Wang, Andrew G. ClarkGregory M. Acland, Lyudmila N. Trut, Guojie Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strains of red fox (Vulpes vulpes) with markedly different behavioural phenotypes have been developed in the famous long-term selective breeding programme known as the Russian farm-fox experiment. Here we sequenced and assembled the red fox genome and re-sequenced a subset of foxes from the tame, aggressive and conventional farm-bred populations to identify genomic regions associated with the response to selection for behaviour. Analysis of the re-sequenced genomes identified 103 regions with either significantly decreased heterozygosity in one of the three populations or increased divergence between the populations. A strong positional candidate gene for tame behaviour was highlighted: SorCS1, which encodes the main trafficking protein for AMPA glutamate receptors and neurexins and suggests a role for synaptic plasticity in fox domestication. Other regions identified as likely to have been under selection in foxes include genes implicated in human neurological disorders, mouse behaviour and dog domestication. The fox represents a powerful model for the genetic analysis of affiliative and aggressive behaviours that can benefit genetic studies of behaviour in dogs and other mammals, including humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1479-1491
Number of pages13
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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