Genetic mutation hints at link between human and canine obesity

4 May 2016

A gene deletion linked to obesity in humans is also found in Labradors, a breed of dog notorious for being overweight and greedy.

The recent surge in human obesity has been matched by a similar rise in canine obesity. A team from the University of Cambridge has found that in addition to sharing many common environmental factors with humans, dogs also share some of the genes that have been linked to obesity.

The gene POMC has been associated with obesity in humans. It produces peptides that affect our food intake. Functional loss of the gene in humans has been shown to lead to severe early onset obesity and adrenal insufficiency.

The team began by assessing and testing 310 Labradors, initially looking at three genes which were potential candidates for causes of obesity. They found that out of fifteen of the obese dogs ten shared a common deletion of the POMC gene. Further testing of thirty-eight other breeds found no sign of the mutation, but the same deletion was present in 60% of 96 flat-coated retrievers that were also tested, a breed that is closely related to the labrador as they share a similar ancestor.

The measureable weight difference between Labradors with and without the POMC gene indicates the possibility of a genetic cause of canine obesity. The team hope that further studies of dogs naturally lacking the peptides encoded by the POMC gene co uld provide further information into canine obesity.

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