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DNA Test – Science Based FAQ

Q.Is the breed detection analysis at all similar to the kind of DNA analysis people can undergo to find out their deep ancestry? Does mitochondrial DNA or Y-chromosome DNA come into play in the analysis? If so, how? If not, then how are the 321 genetic markers determined?
A.

The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test has some technological similarities to the DNA analysis that people use to determine their deep ancestry but there are major differences in what the different analyses are looking for. The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test is designed to detect the presence of purebred dogs in the most recent ancestry of a mixed-breed dog (ideally the Great Grandparent, Grandparent or Parental level), whereas most human ancestry tests are designed to detect the proportion of the tested individual that comes from historical racial or defined population groups.

The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test only uses what are called autosomal DNA markers, chromosomes that contain most of the genetic instructions for every canine's body make up (height, weight, size etc.). There are no markers from either the so-called sex chromosomes (the canine X or Y chromosomes). Mitochondrial DNA, or Y-chromosome DNA testing, is rather different as these parts of the genome are passed on intact from mother to daughter and father to son respectively, but are therefore only representative of either the female or the male lineage. Autosomal DNA is inherited both from the maternal and paternal lineages equally and constantly shuffled by a process called recombination at each successive generation, and therefore is able to give useful information on the breeds found on both sides of a dog's lineage.

To find the genetic markers that performed best at distinguishing between breeds, Mars Veterinary tested over 4,600 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms or genetic markers, where genetic variation has been found between different dogs), from positions across the whole canine Autosomal genome from over 3,200 dogs. To further refine the search, Mars Veterinary determined the best 1,536 genetic variations and ran them against an additional 4,400 dogs from a wide range of breeds. This stage of testing resulted in the selection of the final panel of DNA markers that performed best at distinguishing between breeds, ultimately creating the the ADVANCE Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test genetic database.

Q.Do breed signatures differ from commonly understood notions of recessive and dominant genes? That is, it seems that the presence of a breed signature doesn't necessarily imply a physical appearance?
A.

Physical appearance (predominantly determined by genes that influence the development of canine size and body mass, coat length, type and color, skull shape, leg length, ear and tail types), are known to be controlled by a very small number of genes relative to the number of genes contained in the canine genome (~20,000 or so in total). These genes can have both recessive and dominant variants and the variant that is present determines the visible effect on physical traits seen.

The presence of breed signatures does not guarantee that the dog will look like all detected breeds - the wonder of genetic inheritance and can be seen as much in people as in dogs.

The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test signatures are defined by markers that are consistent with the presence of a particular breed in the background of a tested dog, but were not chosen to specifically cover the genes responsible for specific trait determination from those breeds - many parts of the genome are likely to be unobservable with regard to trait determination. This can happen for any number of trait-determining genes. Therefore, a mixed-breed dog could be a mix of three or four breeds but have few traits evident from one or more of these breeds. There are two good examples of how this can happen. The first is eye color in humans. Brown is dominant over blue and green, and yet, a brown-eyed mother can have a green-eyed son if the dominant brown eye color variant is not passed on. The second, and perhaps best, illustration of the surprising effects you may see when mixing breeds is to study some designer dogs (e.g. puggles, cocker-poos, etc.), which are a custom combination of two different pure breeds. Often these dogs will look quite different to the founder breeds because they are a mixture of two very different sets of genetic backgrounds. Equally many dog breeds still contain a variety of genetic variants for specific trait genes, especially coat color, size and coat type. For example, there are many different forms of Schnauzers such as miniature, standard and giant, and there are many different coat colors and coat types found in the Dachshund breed such as wire-, smooth- and long-haired. Dogs can be many different colors and yet are still classified as the same breed.

Q.My dog looks nothing like the breeds detected in the ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed DNA Identification Test analysis. Can you explain how this can happen?
A.

Many parts of the canine genome are likely to be unobservable or hidden with regard to trait determination. This can happen for any number of trait-determining genes. Simply put, a mixed-breed dog could be a mix of 3 or 4 breeds but have few traits evident from one or more of these breeds.

There are two good examples of how this can happen. The first is eye color in humans. Brown is dominant over blue and green, and yet, a brown-eyed mother can have a green-eyed son if the dominant brown eye color variant is not passed on. The second, and perhaps best, illustration of the surprising effects you may see when mixing breeds is to study some designer dogs (e.g. puggles, cocker-poos, etc.), which are a custom combination of two different pure breeds. Often these dogs will look quite different to the founder breeds because they are a mixture of two very different sets of genetic backgrounds. Equally many dog breeds still contain a variety of genetic variants for specific trait genes, especially coat color, size and coat type. For example, there are many different forms of Schnauzers such as miniature, standard and giant, and there are many different coat colors and coat types found in the Dachshund breed such as wire-, smooth- and long-haired. Dogs can be many different colors and yet are still classified as the same breed.

Q.Your website says that breed signatures are extremely similar and can be hard to differentiate. Who/what makes the final decision as to which breed is reported? Computer? Human? Combination?
A.

All breed determinations are made solely by our proprietary computer algorithm. With each tested dog's DNA, more than 7 million repetitive comparisons are made using a complex statistical algorithm. The algorithm scans the 321 genetic markers collected and looks for matches to breed signatures. The algorithm provides a marker by marker certainty score for each breed match. The computer selects the single best combination of breeds and relative amounts of breeds detected that best match the tested DNA sample from this comparison with our extensive database of purebred ANKC dog breed signatures.

Q.Many Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) breeds are derived from other, older breeds. Would The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test sometimes mistakenly detect some of the originating breeds instead of the newer ANKC recognized breed?
A.

Some breeds are relatively new, created from mixing other breeds together. When this happens, some ancestral similarities may remain in certain chromosomal regions, making it possible to have breeds that have been combined in crosses to ultimately form a new breed could potentially be detected as matches at certain markers that our test uses. If this occurs, this would most likely be reported as trace amounts of the ancestrally related breeds.

Q.Of the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) breeds not currently being identified and some other breeds not recognized by ANKC (such as Murray River Retriever), would the test identify that the dog has a significant amount of an undetermined breed or would it just not say anything at all?
A.

Our test is designed to find the best matches to the 200+ breeds in our database. Occasionally it is possible that no strong breed matches will be made. In this case, no breeds would be reported, which may happen if no breeds are present in the lineage of the dog that The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test can detect. In terms of breeds not covered by the The ADVANCE™ Mixed Breed Identification DNA Test, the results will depend upon the genetic relatedness of the tested dog to the breeds available in our database. For example, a Llewellyn Setter (closely related genetically to the English Setter but not covered by our test) might result in a report that contains some amount of English setter.