The Effects of FGF4 Retrogenes on Canine Morphology

Genes (Basel). 2022 Feb 10;13(2):325. doi: 10.3390/genes13020325.


Two FGF4 retrogenes (FGF4L1 on chromosome 18 and FGF4L2 on chromosome 12) have been identified to cause dwarfism across many dog breeds. Some breeds are nearly homozygous for both retrogenes (e.g., Dachshunds) and others are homozygous for just one (e.g., Beagles and Scottish Terriers). Since most breeds do not segregate both of these retrogenes, it is challenging to evaluate their individual effects on long bone length and body size. We identified two dog breeds selected for hunting ability, the Alpine Dachsbracke and the Schweizer Niederlaufhund, that segregate both of these retrogenes. Using individual measurements of height at the shoulder, back length, head width, thorax depth and width, and thoracic limb measurements, we evaluated the combined effects of FGF4 retrogenes within these breeds. We applied multivariable linear regression analysis to determine the effects of retrogene copy numbers on the measurements. Copy numbers of both retrogenes had significant effects reducing height at the shoulders and antebrachial length, with FGF4L1 having a much greater effect than FGF4L2. FGF4L1 alone influenced the degree of carpal valgus and FGF4L2 alone increased head width. Neither retrogene had an effect on thorax width or depth. Selectively breeding dogs with FGF4L1 and without FGF4L2 would likely lead to a reduction in the FGF4L2-related risk of intervertebral disc herniation while maintaining the reduction in leg length resulting from FGF4L1.

Keywords: body size; chondrodysplasia; chondrodystrophy; conformation; dwarfism; height.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dogs
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement* / genetics