Enzymatic activity of Telomerase Reverse Transcriptase (TERT) is important in maintaining the telomere length and has been implicated in cancer and aging related pathology. Since cancer susceptibility as well as longevity of dogs vary between breeds, this study involved sequencing the entire TERT gene of Canis familiaris from DNA samples obtained from forty dogs, with ten dogs each of four breeds: Shih Tzu, Dachshund, Irish Wolfhound, and Newfoundland, each with different life expectancies and susceptibility to cancer.
We compared the sequences of all forty individuals amongst one another and with the published sequence of canine TERT, and analyzed relationships between members of the same or different breeds. Two separate phylogenetic trees were generated and analyzed from these individuals. Polymorphisms were found most frequently in intronic regions of the gene, although exonic polymorphisms also were observed. In many locations genotypes were observed that were either homozygous for the reference sequence or heterozygous, but the variant homozygous genotype was not observed.
We propose that these homozygous variants are likely to have adverse effects in dogs. It was also found that the polymorphisms did not segregate by breed. Because the four breeds chosen come from geographically and physiologically distinct backgrounds, it can be inferred that the polymorphic diversification of TERT preceded breed derivation.