Interview with Ms. Rachel Booth

Posted Wed, Apr, 13,2016

This author interview is by Rachel Booth, of University of Sydney. Ms. Booth's full paper, Visualization of genome diversity in German Shepherd Dogs, is available for download in Bioinformatics and Biology Insights.

Please summarize for readers the content of your article.
This article details the use of a pipeline technology, NetView, to visualise the network of individual relationships existing within a subpopulation of German Shepherd Dogs. This allows us to efficiently view the breed structure of the German Shepherd, which is a breed that has a relatively small effective population size, an increased risk of inbreeding and subsequent predisposition to multiple inherited disorders. The article explains the methodologies underpinning the recruitment of study animals, blood collection and DNA extraction and genotyping. It also describes how NetView was employed to assess population structure and how to interpret key findings. Overall, this study highlights how useful a technology such as NetView is in visualizing complex data and how subsequent interpretation can aid in identifying the degree of inbreeding within a population. This provides a potential tool for breeders to identify dogs that are related, and subsequently for them to breed away from these existing lines to maximise genetic diversity and health prospects for the German Shepherd in the future.

How did you come to be involved in your area of study?
I became involved with this research in my honours year of my undergraduate degree in Animal and Veterinary Bioscience in 2014. I have always had a keen interest in animal genetics, and particularly canine genetics. I approached Professor Peter Williamson about a potential project that he may have available at the beginning of my honours year, and I was ultimately rewarded with the opportunity to initiate and carry out this research alongside my colleagues.

What was previously known about the topic of your article?
The nature of inbreeding within purebred dogs, including the German Shepherd, is well understood. This is often revealed by the use of dominant champion show dogs by breeders and breeding programs, leading to a loss in genetic diversity and increased risk of inherited disorders. The genetic diversity of purebred dogs has previously been demonstrated using calculations of population parameters, but presentation of such data has been difficult as this data is often extremely complex. Therefore, NetView provides the innovative opportunity to interpret genetic relationships within a breed, an intuitive approach to assessing complex data.

How has your work in this area advanced understanding of the topic?
This work ultimately allows immediate visualisation of the genetic diversity spectrum across a subpopulation of dogs. NetView advances our understanding of the genome diversity in German Shepherds and provides an efficient tool for breeders to utilise when devising which dogs to utilise in their breeding programs. This will decrease rates of inbreeding and improve health prospects for this breed.

What do you regard as being the most important aspect of the results reported in the article?
The most important aspect of the results reported is the fact that visualisation reflects an accurate measure of the relationship between two individuals based on molecular data. The fact that NetView was successful in depicting the genetic relationships amongst a subpopulation of German Shepherds means that breeders can now access this tool to choose mates that will optimise genetic diversity in order to maintain a healthy breed and reduce morbidity from inherited disorders.

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