Various canine breeds are remarkably different from each other not only in their sizes and shapes but also in behavioral traits, suggesting that some of them are under genetic control. Although dopaminergic neurotransmission system is considered to affect animal behavior, little is known about related genes in canine. Relations between specific alleles in polymorphic regions of the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4) and personality or psychiatric disorders have been reported in humans, and we first found polymorphism in exon III region of the gene in 4 canine breeds. In this study we surveyed allele frequency distribution in 23 breeds including a total of 1,535 unrelated individuals. In exon III, 8 alleles including a novel allele were identified. A group of breeds in which the alleles 447b, 498 and 549 were frequent tended toward high scores in aggression-related behavioral traits than that with frequent alleles 435 and 447a. Moreover, a polymorphism based on 24 bp insertion/deletion was found in exon I region for the first time in dogs. This information may be of use for candidate gene studies of behavioral variation in dogs.
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