March 1, 2021

Discover how domestication syndrome occurs in animals

Charles Darwin was the first to notice that domestic animals are more docile and have common characteristics, such as the shorter snout, something that is known as domestication syndrome, and now Spanish researchers have established how it is produced.

Changes in a group of genes in the early stages of domestication lead to common traits for domestic animals and the results of the study, published by Molecuar Biology and Evolution, suggest that after several generations these epigenetic changes can be integrated into the genome and endure.

Five years ago, the German Adam Wilkins, the American Richard Wranghan and the Austrian Tecumseh Fitch hypothesized that the syndrome or phenotype of domestication was essentially due to slight deficits in the number of cells of the neural crest during embryonic development.

The neural crest is an exclusive structure of vertebrates that is formed in the early stages of development and its cells migrate through the body giving rise to certain structures and cells.

The researchers Dafni Anastasiadi and Francecs Piferrer, of the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), have confirmed this hypothesis of the neural crest, but they have also described the mechanism by which the syndrome is acquired. domestication.

"Darwin had described what (the domestication syndrome), researchers Wilkins, Wrangham and Fitch had proposed why (deficits in neural crest cells), but how was missing. And this last is what explains our work ", explains Piferrer in a statement from the CSIC.

For their study, the experts compared wild seabass with other farmed ones in the early stages of domestication to demonstrate that the domestication syndrome "occurs through epigenetic changes in DNA methylation of genes related to early development and, specifically, , of the neural crest, "notes the note.

Methylation is a mechanism of the so-called epigenetic, so that a wild animal and another domestic can have genes with identical genetic sequences, but the influence of environmental conditions can cause changes in DNA methylation, which in turn modifies the way in which the genes are expressed and, consequently, the phenotype.

Scientists have observed that changes in DNA methylation during embryonic development persist into adulthood and affect genes whose expression is altered and are responsible for phenotypes associated with the domestication syndrome, such as deformities of the jaw or change in the pigmentation.

Since DNA methylation increases the likelihood of mutation, these results suggest, explains the statement, that "after several generations these epigenetic changes can be integrated into the genome."

In addition "many of the genes that present these changes coincide with the same variants in mammals and domestic birds such as the dog, cat, horse, rabbit, duck, among others", according to Piferrer.

(tagsToTranslate) Discover (t) produce (t) syndrome (t) domestication (t) animals

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