Researchers have traced albinism in Doberman pinschers to a partial gene deletion of SLC45A2, as they report in PLOS One. The same gene, LiveScience notes, has been linked to albinism in humans.
"With an albino Doberman, you see a white or lighter-colored coat, pink noses, and lips, along with pale irises in the eyes," says co-author Paige Winkler, a doctoral student at Michigan State University, in a statement. "These traits are very similar to the characteristics humans display with this particular condition, causing light-pigmented skin and hair, along with eye discoloration and vision disturbances."
Albino Dobermans also are more likely to develop melanoma-like cancers.
By studying 40 Doberman pinschers, half of which were albino, Winkler and her co-authors homed in on a more than 4,000 base pair deletion in SLC45A2, a putative sugar transporter gene. That deletion leads to the loss of the terminus of exon seven, and dogs with the deletion showed limited expression of that gene.
"What we found was a gene mutation that results in a missing protein necessary for cells to be pigmented," Winkler adds.