Relationship between the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) variant R306ter and physiological responses to mechanical or thermal stimuli in Labrador Retriever dogs

Vet Anaesth Analg. 2017 Mar;44(2):370-374. doi: 10.1016/j.vaa.2016.05.003. Epub 2017 Jan 11.


Objective: Variants in the MC1R gene have been associated with red hair color and sensitivity to pain in humans. The study objective was to determine if a relationship exists between MC1R genotype and physiological thermal or mechanical nociceptive thresholds in Labrador Retriever dogs.

Study design: Prospective experimental study.

Animals: Thirty-four Labrador Retriever dogs were included in the study following public requests for volunteers. Owner consent was obtained and owners verified that their dog was apparently not experiencing pain and had not been treated for pain during the previous 14 days. The study was approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Methods: Nociceptive thresholds were determined from a mean of three thermal and five mechanical replications using commercially available algometers. Each dog was genotyped for the previously described MC1R variant (R306ter). Data were analyzed using one-way anova with post hoc comparisons using Tukey's test (p < 0.05).

Results: Thirteen dogs were homozygous wild-type (WT/WT), nine were heterozygous (WT/R306ter), and eight were homozygous variant (R306ter/R306ter) genotype. Four dogs could not be genotyped. A significant difference (p = 0.04) in mechanical nociceptive thresholds was identified between dogs with the WT/WT genotype (12.1±2.1 N) and those with the WT/R306ter genotype (9.2±2.4 N).

Conclusion: A difference in mechanical, but not thermal, nociceptive threshold was observed between wild-type and heterozygous MC1R variants. Differences in nociceptive thresholds between homozygous R306ter variants and other genotypes for MC1R were not observed.

Clinical relevance: Compared with the wild-type MC1R genotype, nociceptive sensitivity to mechanical force in dogs with a single variant R306ter allele may be greater. However, in contrast to the reported association between homozygous MC1R variants (associated with red hair color) and nociception in humans, we found no evidence of a similar relationship in dogs with the homozygous variant genotype.

Keywords: dog; melanocortin-1 receptor; nociception.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype*
  • Hair Color / genetics
  • Heterozygote
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Nociception / physiology*
  • Pain Measurement / instrumentation
  • Pain Measurement / veterinary
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / genetics*


  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1