Identification of novel genetic risk loci in maltese dogs with necrotizing meningoencephalitis and evidence of a shared genetic risk across toy dog breeds

Isabelle Schrauwen, Renee M. Barber, Scott J. Schatzberg, Ashley L. Siniard, Jason J. Corneveaux, Brian F. Porter, Karen Vernau, Rebekah I. Keesler, Kaspar Matiasek, Thomas Flegel, Andrew D. Miller, Teresa Southard, Christopher L. Mariani, Gayle C. Johnson, Matthew J. Huentelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Necrotizing meningoencephalitis (NME) affects toy and small breed dogs causing progressive, often fatal, inflammation and necrosis in the brain. Genetic risk loci for NME previously were identified in pug dogs, particularly associated with the dog leukocyte antigen (DLA) class II complex on chromosome 12, but have not been investigated in other susceptible breeds. We sought to evaluate Maltese and Chihuahua dogs, in addition to pug dogs, to identify novel or shared genetic risk factors for NME development. Genome-wide association testing of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in Maltese dogs with NME identified 2 regions of genome-wide significance on chromosomes 4 (chr4:74522353T>A, p = 8.1×10-7) and 15 (chr15:53338796A>G, p = 1.5×10-7). Haplotype analysis and fine-mapping suggests that ILR7 and FBXW7, respectively, both important for regulation of immune system function, could be the underlying associated genes. Further evaluation of these regions and the previously identified DLA II locus across all three breeds, revealed an enrichment of nominal significant SNPs associated with chromosome 15 in pug dogs and DLA II in Maltese and Chihuahua dogs. Meta-analysis confirmed effect sizes the same direction in all three breeds for both the chromosome 15 and DLA II loci (p = 8.6×10-11 and p = 2.5×10-7, respectively). This suggests a shared genetic background exists between all breeds and confers susceptibility to NME, but effect sizes might be different among breeds. In conclusion, we identified the first genetic risk factors for NME development in the Maltese, chromosome 4 and chromosome 15, and provide evidence for a shared genetic risk between breeds associated with chromosome 15 and DLA II. Last, DLA II and IL7R both have been implicated in human inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, suggesting that similar pharmacotherapeutic targets across species should be investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere112755
JournalPLoS One
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 13 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of novel genetic risk loci in maltese dogs with necrotizing meningoencephalitis and evidence of a shared genetic risk across toy dog breeds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this