The hypoxic environment imposes severe selective pressure on species living at high altitude. To understand the genetic bases of adaptation to high altitude in dogs, we performed whole-genome sequencing of 60 dogs including five breeds living at continuous altitudes along the Tibetan Plateau from 800 to 5100 m as well as one European breed. More than 150× sequencing coverage for each breed provides us with a comprehensive assessment of the genetic polymorphisms of the dogs, including Tibetan Mastiffs. Comparison of the breeds from different altitudes reveals strong signals of population differentiation at the locus of hypoxia-related genes including endothelial Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain protein 1 (EPAS1) and beta hemoglobin cluster. Notably, four novel nonsynonymous mutations specific to high-altitude dogs are identified at EPAS1, one of which occurred at a quite conserved site in the PAS domain. The association testing between EPAS1 genotypes and blood-related phenotypes on additional high-altitude dogs reveals that the homozygous mutation is associated with decreased blood flow resistance, which may help to improve hemorheologic fitness. Interestingly, EPAS1 was also identified as a selective target in Tibetan highlanders, though no amino acid changes were found. Thus, our results not only indicate parallel evolution of humans and dogs in adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia, but also provide a new opportunity to study the role of EPAS1 in the adaptive processes.
© 2014 Gou et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.