White coat color in mammals has been selected several times during the domestication process. Numerous dog breeds are fixed for one form of white coat color that involves darkly pigmented skin. The genetic basis of this color, due to the absence of pigment in the hairs, was suggested to correspond to extreme dilution of the phaeomelanin, by both the expression of only phaeomelanin (locus E) and its extreme dilution (locus I). To go further, we performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using a multiple breed approach. The first GWAS, using 34 white dogs and 128 non-white dogs, including White Shepherds, Poodles, Cotons de Tulear and Bichons allowed us to identify two significantly associated loci on the locus E and a novel locus on chromosome 20. A second GWAS using 15 other breeds presenting extreme phaeomelanin dilution confirmed the position of locus I on the chromosome 20 (position 55 Mb pcorrected = 6 × 10-13). Using whole-genome sequencing, we identified a missense variant in the first exon of MFSD12, a gene recently identified to be involved in human, mouse and horse pigmentation. We confirmed the role of this variant in phaeomelanin dilution of numerous canine breeds, and the conserved role of MFSD12 in mammalian pigmentation.
Keywords: Dog; Locus I; MFSD12; phaeomelanin dilution.